Photographer, filmmaker, and painter. Known as Rudy, he became the art magazines' leading photojournalist in the period immediately after World War II. In the 1950s Art News in particular published many of his portraits of artists in their studios. In 1935 Burckhardt left his native Basel, Switzerland, where he had received a classical education and taken up photography as a teenager. Settling in New York, he recorded the city's architecture and street life. His informal aesthetic often revealed moments of wry humor or poetic beauty, and he was particularly skilled at capturing the dancelike motion of ordinary people. During the early 1940s he served in the U.S. Army. Also in the 1940s he produced a series of offbeat still life photographs; assured and informal, these studies of scattered objects defy traditional compositional structures. Burckhardt began making films in the 1930s and eventually completed about one hundred. Ranging from documentaries to Hollywood spoofs to lyrical montages, many were collaborative projects with writers, dancers, or other artists. In the 1950s he made four films with Joseph Cornell. He also worked with Larry Rivers and Red Grooms, as well as poet John Ashbery and dancer Paul Taylor. Burckhardt started painting in the 1940s. He studied for a year with French Purist Amédée Ozenfant and also worked at the Brooklyn Museum's school and abroad. Besides notable urban scenes, he also produced subjects from nature and nudes. For the last three decades of his life, he painted intimate views of the forest and other subjects observed on the wooded property of his summer home in rural Searsmont, Maine, where he also occasionally photographed. He drowned in a pond there, an apparent suicide. In 1979 Burckhardt published Mobile Homes, a collection of autobiographical essays. Interviews appeared in Conversations with Rudy Burckhardt about Everything (1987) and Talking Pictures: The Photography of Rudy Burckhardt (1994), with extensive illustration of his work. He also collaborated on Boulevard Transportation (1997).
Burckhardt's widow, painter Yvonne Jacquette (1934– ), is especially known for night views of New York and other cities, usually observed from a high vantage point. Balancing formal concerns with representation, her adroitly composed scenes vibrate with soft color applied in small strokes. She has also painted the city by day, as well as landscapes and industrial sites. Jacquette was born in Pittsburgh and studied at the Rhode Island School of Design from 1952 to 1956 before moving to New York. She and Burckhardt married in 1964. Their two sons also are artists in New York. Jacob Burckhardt (named for an illustrious nineteenth-century historian ancestor) is an independent filmmaker. Painter Tom Burckhardt (1964– ) combines abstract and representational elements in colorful inventions.