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May 21, 2017

23 Fascinating Vintage Photos of Lilya Brik, the Muse of Russian Avant-Garde, in the 1920s

Lilya Brik (1891–1978) was a Russian sometime writer and socialite, connected to many leading figures in the Russian avant-garde between 1914 and 1930. She was known as the beloved (muse) of Vladimir Mayakovsky.

She was born into a wealthy Jewish family of a lawyer and a music teacher in Moscow. Both she and her sister Elsa received excellent education and were able to speak fluent German and French, and to play the piano. Lilya graduated from Moscow Institute of Architecture. The sisters were famous for their beauty.

When she was twenty years old, Lilya married poet-futurist and poetry critic Osip Brik whom she had met when she was 14 and he was 17; they were married March 26, 1912. (Her sister Elsa married Louis Aragon, a notable French writer).

Pablo Neruda called Lilya “muse of Russian avant-garde”. Her name was frequently abbreviated by her contemporaries as “Л.Ю.” or “Л.Ю.Б.” which are the first letters of the Russian word «любовь» lyubov, “love”.

Lilya Brik also influenced the photographer and graphic designer, Alexander Rodchenko who used his portraits of the muse for posters, pamphlets and publications including Vladimir Mayakosky’s poem, About That, in 1923, and a poster for the soviet publisher, Gosizdat that represented Lilya Brik with a hand to a wide open mouth shouting BOOKS!

After her lover’s suicide, she remained discreet yet served as an inspiration to many artists from Marc Chagall to Yves Saint Laurent.


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