The Swiss American photographer and filmmaker Rudy Burckhardt was a robust contributor to the New York art scene as a documentarian and participant, from 1935 until the end of the century. Burckhardt witnessed and photographed the birth and rise of such groups as the Abstract Expressionists and the New York School. In his own work Burckhardt captured quotidian moments of the city, its people, the demolition & construction of its changing neighborhoods. He brings an acute eye to his random yet formal & playful compositions. Amidst the quantities of photographs Rudy shot, several of them are some of the most iconic of New York City, such as the Flatiron Building, The Brooklyn Waterfront, Queens and the water towers of Chelsea rooftops.
In 1914 Rudolph Burckhardt was born in Basel to the notable Swiss family, which included the historian Jacob Burckhardt. He was, from an early age, encouraged to study medicine. However with the discovery of photography and a new friendship with the writer and poet Edwin Denby, Burckhardt’s life changed course. He immigrated to New York City in 1935. For the remainder of the 1930s and 1940s he traveled, photographed and filmed much of the American South, the Caribbean and Europe. Over the years Rudy fostered friendships with many key figures of the New York art scene such as Willem de Kooning, Alex Katz, Jane Freilicher, Red Grooms and Jackson Pollock. Rudy collaborated with many artists on his various films such as Red Grooms, Mimi Gross, Larry Rivers, Yvonne Jacquette, John Ashbery, Jane Freilicher, and Edwin Denby. In the 1950’s and 1960’s he frequently photographed artists such as DeKooning, Pollock, Joan Mitchel and Mark Rothko for Artnews, as well as for many institutions and the legendary Leo Castelli Gallery. Later in life he married the painter Yvonne Jacquette. Amongst their collaborations, is their son, the contemporary artist Tom Burckhardt.
The work of Rudy Burckhardt has been extensively exhibited in galleries and museums both nationally and internationally in such institutions as The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art, Museum der Moderne, Salzburg, Austria, Fotostiftung Schweitz, Winterthur, Switzerland and the Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland. Many of his works are now in these permanent collections. Given the breadth of Rudy’s documentation of New York City and its artists, Burckhardt’s photographs have been reproduced hundreds of times for commercial and academic purposes.