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Biography

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Overview (3)

Date of Birth 11 November 1891Moscow, Russian Empire [now Russia]
Date of Death 4 August 1978Peredelkino, Moscow Oblast, Russian SFSR, USSR [now Russia]
Birth NameLiliya Yuryevna Kagan

Mini Bio (1)

Lily Brik, one of Russian and Soviet culture's most enigmatic women who was admired by many important men, was known for her wit and beauty and helped many talented people to become famous.

She was born Lilya Urievna Kagan, in 1891, in Moscow, Russia, into a Jewish family of a lawyer and a music teacher. Young Lilya grew up in a trilingual family environment, she received an excellent private education and absorbed from the intellectual and artistic circles of both Russian capitals, St. Petersburg and Moscow. Lilya studied piano professionally; in addition to her native Russian and Yiddish she spoke fluent German and French. She studied art and architecture and graduated from Moscow Institute of Architecture.

Lilya and her junior sister, Elsa, who later became known as Elsa Triolet, were both famous for their personal charm and special beauty. Lilya was just a teenage girl when she attracted attention of the famous Russian opera basso Feodor Chaliapin Sr.. At that time, as Lilya realized the power of her charm, intellect, and sex appeal, she became part of Russian cultural milieu. She was arguably one of the most famous and influential women in the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s Russian and Soviet culture. Lily Brik's face was on the cover of LEF magazine and on numerous posters of that time. She also helped many talented men to become famous and happy, and some men, like poet Mayakovsky, were unhappy without her company.

On February 26, 1912, Lilya married Osip Brik in Moscow, and soon the couple moved to St. Petersburg. They had a dacha-home in Levashovo, an upscale suburb of St. Petersburg. There, in July of 1915, Lilya's junior sister, Elsa, introduced her boyfriend, poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, to Osip and Lilya. Mayakovsky became obsessed with both, charming and coquettish Lilya Brik, and intellectually challenging Osip Brik. But Lilya remained married to Osip Brik, who extended his hospitality to her greatest admirer. Osip Brik financed the publication of futurist poetry collection 'Cloud in Pants' (1915) by Vladimir Mayakovsky, which was inspired by their muse, Lilya. At that time Lilya became involved in silent film. In 1918 she made her film debut co-starring with Mayakovsky in Zakovannaya filmoi (1918) which was produced by the "Neptun" film studio in St. Petersburg.

During the Russian Revolution the Briks lived in Petrograd (St. Petersburg). There Lilya's husband briefly served at the special militarized Revolutionary Automobile Group, and had risen to the rank of a Commissar. In June of 1920, the Briks moved to Moscow where Osip Brik was hired as a Legal Councel for the CheKa (predecessor of the KGB). From there Osip Brik was fired with a verdict, "for negligent attitude and evasion from work", but the Briks still managed to help emigration of the parents of writer Boris Pasternak.

During the 1920s the Moscow apartment of Lily and Osip Brik was the meeting place for such Russian culture luminaries as Boris Pasternak, Maxim Gorky, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Sergei M. Eisenstein, Kazimir Malevich, Alexander Rodchenko, Yuri Tynyanov, Vsevolod Meyerhold and many others. Lily and Osip Brik were among the most active proponents of new artistic ideas in art, literature, theatre and film in the 1910s - 1930s Russia. They were both important members of Russian Formalism and Futurism in literature and art. In 1922-23 Lily and Osip Brik made a trip to Europe and visited Wassily Kandinsky and Bauhaus in Germany.

In the 1920s, Lily Brik directed two films. In 1926, she produced and directed a documentary titled 'Jews on the land', based on a scenario by Mayakovsky and Viktor Shklovsky about Jewish collective farms in Russia. Then Lily Brik directed a parody on "bourgeous cinema" titled 'Steklyanny glaz' (aka.. The Glass Eye 1929). From 1922-1928 Lily Brik was also involved in publishing the magazine 'LEF' (Leftist Front of Arts), which became the platform for the LEF group, and for the Russian Dada and Constructivist art. Lily Brik's portrait by Alexander Rodchenko appeared on the cover of LEF magazine. She was the inspirational force for the group of Russian avant-garde writers, artists and film directors, such as Vladimir Mayakovsky, Alexander Rodchenko, Lev Kuleshov, Dziga Vertov, Sergei M. Eisenstein, Sergei Yutkevich, Viktor Shklovsky, V. Ivanov-Zhemchuzhnyj and others.

In 1930, while she was on a trip in Europe, Lily Brik learned that her close friend and film partner Vladimir Mayakovsky committed suicide after his breakup with actress Veronika Polonskaya. Lily, who previously twice saved him from committing suicide, was too far away to be able to help him this time. After Lily Brik's letter to Joseph Stalin, who approved her idea to publish the collected works of Mayakovsky, his poetry was included in the Soviet school curriculum and reissued in massive printings. She divorced from Osip Brik. From 1930-1937 she was married to Soviet General Vitali Primakov, who was falsely accused of relations with Anti-Soviet Trotskyist organization and was executed in 1937, during the Moscow Trials and "Great terror" under dictatorship of Joseph Stalin.

During hard times Lily Brik was supported by none other, than Nikolay Cherkasov who was a strong supporter of retired and disabled actors and writers. He personally donated substantial sums of money to many less fortunate actors and cinematographers who suffered under the communist regime. Cherkasov found that Lily Brik was left homeless in Moscow, and that she has no income. Cherkasov used his star power to pressure the Soviet authorities: he wrote a letter to the Soviet Government requesting "good care and accommodation for actress Lily Brik, the widow of writer Vladimir Mayakovsky" and soon Lily Brik was provided with a decent place to live in central Moscow.

From 1938-1978 she was married to writer Vasily Katanyan. The home of Lily Brik and Vasili Katanyan was the meeting place for unofficial cultural milieu in the 1950s and 1960s Moscow. At that time Lily Brik played important role in supporting the new generation of talented writers, musicians, artists, and filmmakers in the former Soviet Union. She was instrumental in the early career of poet Andrei Voznesensky and filmmaker Sergei Parajanov as well as other aspiring talents. In 1978, after suffering from an incurable illness, she committed suicide by taking a lethal dose of sleeping pills. That was on August 4, 1978, in Peredelkino, Moscow, Russia.

Lily Brik was model for portraits by such famous artists as Marc Chagall, Alexander Tyshler, Alexander Rodchenko, David Burlyuk, Fernand Léger, and Henri Matisse.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Shelokhonov

Spouse (3)

Vasily Katanyan (1938 - 4 August 1978) (her death)
Vitali Primakov (November 1930 - 1937)
Osip Brik (26 March 1912 - 1930) (divorced)

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