Born in Russia, Kirk left that country as a youthful political exile. His formative studies were at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and in Paris. Concerning his approach to art he wrote:
"In my painting gamut I give preference to the toiler and his station in life, to the miner with his coal-blackened face, the hunchbacked little street he lives on and never sees in daylight; landscape and still life of social meaning are also my themes.
"My approach to art is social realism as are my convictions and general conception of life.
"I prefer the ethical to the esthetic and refuse to sacrifice truth."
Quoted in the catalog of Memorial Exhibition of Paintings, National Arts Club, New York City, November 1–14, 1964.
Lois Fink and Joshua C. Taylor Academy: The Academic Tradition in American Art (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press for the National Collection of Fine Arts, 1975)