Born in Kherson, Ukraine, in 1888, Wladimir Baranoff-Rossiné spent his life and career between imperial Russia and Paris. After studying in Odesa and St Petersburg, he exhibited in early avant-garde exhibitions held in Moscow and St Petersburg, alongside Mijaíl Lariónov, Natalia Goncharova, Alexandra Exter and the Burliuk brothers, among others. He also participated in an important exhibition in Kyiv in 1908 devoted to the synthesis between painting, sculpture, poetry and music. An intense interest in the idea of a synthesis of the arts, a legacy of Russian Symbolism, would remain with Baranoff-Rossiné all his life.

In 1910, he left for Paris where, aside from frequenting the circles of artists from the Russian empire, he was particularly friendly with Hans Arp and Robert and Sonia Delaunay. His colourful paintings of the period show an assimilation of Cubism, Futurism and Orphism, and he exhibited regularly at the Salon des Indépendants. At the same time, he experimented with sculpture, executing two large openwork assemblage sculptures created from fragments of painted metal, wood and found objects. One of these sculptures, exhibited at the 1914 Salon des Indépendants, provoked such consternation and ridicule that he later threw it into the Seine. Only the French critic Guillaume Apollinaire understood its radical and prescient expressive idiom, comparable to the early ‘sculpto-paintings’ produced by fellow Ukrainian Alexander Archipenko.

At the outbreak of the First World War, Baranoff-Rossiné moved to Norway, where he would remain until 1917, when he went back to Russia. Between 1917 and 1925, his production was prolific; he exhibited alongside Marc Chagall, Nathan Altman, Yurii Annenkov and other representatives of the Soviet avant-garde, and taught painting. At the same time, he explored his earlier interest in a synthesis of the arts, inventing a ‘colour-clavier’ and presenting ‘optophonic’ concerts in Moscow theatres, in which, as the piano's keys were played, the music was ‘translated’ by coloured disks projected on a screen.

Baranoff-Rossiné returned to settle in Paris in 1925. He continued to paint in a more Surrealist manner, made a few sculptures, and experimented with materials, colours and sounds, exhibiting regularly in the Parisian Salons. His works may be found in many public collections, including those of the Russian Museum in St Petersburg, the Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow, the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In 1943 he was arrested in France by the Gestapo and deported. He died in the Auschwitz concentration camp (Poland) in 1944.


Margit Rowell