Paul Burlin had a long and successful career of eight decades, though his work did not turn to abstract expressionism--the style in which arguably, his best work was produced--until the painter was in his seventies, a clear example of his stalwart, and lifelong pursuit of new forms of expression. The youngest at the landmark 69th Regiment Armory Show of 1913, Burlin created quite a stir, showing alongside the likes of Monet, Picasso, Manet, and Degas. Known for the aggressive, unsentimental undercurrents that pulsed through his work, Burlin painted in a way that challenged mass consumer-based identity, and reflected what he perceived to be the “palsy of the [American] spirit” that he believed was ubiquitous during that time. He was quoted as saying that he could not be satisfied with a piece unless he could locate within in, “an arrogance that says to hell with all reasonableness but this.”
Paul Burlin was born in 1886 in New York City. From 1900 until 1912 he attended the National Academy of Art as well as the Art Student’s League, and worked as an illustrator for Delineator, where Theodore Dreiser was the editor at the time. While living in Sante Fe, between 1913 and 1920, Burlin became fascinated with primitive art, and particularly the rich culture of the Pueblo Indians. Burlin and his wife of the time, Natalie Curtis, became quite involved with the local tribes, and he began incorporating the colors and distinct geometric qualities of the native work into his own, as well as painting portraits of Indians. The southwestern spirituality persisted in his work long after he moved away from the West. For his 1946 show, the brochure read, “The magic itself of the painting aims to destroy visual reality and the primitive colors shape themselves into a reality of their own.” Burlin subsequently lived and exhibited all over Europe and North Africa.
From 1949-1960, he taught and worked as a visiting artist at colleges all over the United States, before retiring to live in New York City and spend his summers in Provincetown, MA. Burlin died in 1969