(b Kiev, 1881/6; d London, 1961).
Polish theorist and painter, active in the USA. Though few immigrants maintained ties to Europe as strong as John Graham’s, his titanic effect upon the direction and development of American art surpassed that of many critics and influential artists—an unlikely reality (because of his improbable bearing and background), acknowledged by his artistic disciples and chronicled in fact.
His family were minor Polish aristocrats long resident in Russia. He studied law at the University of Kiev then became a Tsarist cavalry officer to fight the Revolution. After being captured by the Bolsheviks, he escaped to western Europe and by 1920 had arrived in the USA. He changed his name, believing that Graham looked similar to the Cyrillic orthography of Dambrowsky. In New York Graham studied in 1921 under John Sloan at the Art Students League while maintaining contacts with Russian artists including Mikhail Larionov and David Burlyuk. Active as an artist in the 1920s, he corresponded with the American collector Duncan Phillips, who acquired several of his paintings. Graham was acquainted with Picasso (an influence he eventually rejected but not before confusing the situation by claiming they were born in the same year, thus forever muddying the facts of his life) and in the late 1920s had one-man exhibitions in both the USA and Paris. In New York he became prominent as the principal link between modernist artists in New York and Paris. In ...