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Alexander Archipenko papers, 1904-1986, bulk, 1930-1964

Alexander Archipenko papers, 1904-1986, bulk, 1930-1964

Archipenko, Alexander, 1887-1964

Sculptor, Etcher

Collection Information

Size: 19.5 linear feet

Summary: The Alexander Archipenko papers measure 19.5 linear feet and date from 1904 to 1986, with the bulk of materials dating from 1930 to 1964. The sculptor's personal and professional life is documented by correspondence, financial records, scrapbooks, printed matter, photographs, and motion picture film documenting his art, exhibitions, travel, teaching activities, and the Archipenko Art School. Archipenko wrote and lectured extensively about his philosophies of art and the relationship between art and nature. The papers include drafts, notes, and final manuscripts of published and unpublished writings, and notes, outlines, transcripts, and audio recordings of some of his lectures.

Correspondence concerns both personal and professional matters. Among Archipenko's personal correspondents are relatives and friends in the Ukraine, wife Angelica during her extended stays in Mexico and California, and other women. Professional correspondence is with dealers, curators, scholars, collectors, colleges and universities concerning exhibitions, sales and commissions, loans, and teaching and lecture engagements.

Archipenko wrote and lectured extensively about his philosophy of art, art in nature, and theories concerning creativity and the universe. His papers include manuscripts, drafts, notes and supporting materials for his book published in 1960, "Archipenko: Fifty Creative Years, 1908-1958." Similar documentation of unpublished writings, as well as notes, outlines, and some transcripts of lectures and talks are also in the series, as well as a motion picture film of an interview with Archipenko.

Records concerning the Archipenko Art School are sparse, with only one photograph of students in Berlin, 1921. Surviving records include printed matter, a cashbook, student roster, and scrapbook containing photographs, printed matter, and typescript copy of a statement by Archipenko, "How I Teach." Most of this material focuses on the New York and Woodstock schools, with only a few items concerning Chicago. In addition, files regarding Archipenko's teaching activities at schools other than his own include course descriptions, student rosters, grades, printed matter, and motion picture film.

Financial records consist of banking records, paid bills, and miscellaneous items. Paid bills include invoices and receipts for art supplies, shipping, and storage. Among the miscellaneous items are price lists, royalties paid by the Museum of Modern Art for "Woman Combing Her Hair", and sales records.

Nine scrapbooks contain clippings, exhibition announcements and catalogs, lecture notices, advertisements and brochures of the Archipenko Art School, and a small number of photographs. Printed matter consists primarily of clippings about Archipenko and exhibition catalogs with related announcements and invitations. Miscellaneous items include books about Archipenko, catalogs of museum collections containing works by Archipenko, reproductions, and a motion picture film related to an exhibition in Darmstadt. Of special interest is a brochure about the Multiplex Advertising Machine that bears a similarity to the Archipentura, an "apparatus for displaying Changeable Pictures" Archipenko invented circa 1924 and patented in 1927.

Photographs are of people, Archipenko's travels and miscellaneous places, exhibitions, works of art, events, and miscellaneous subjects. Five photograph albums mainly document travels. Slides and transparencies include black and white lantern slides probably used to illustrate lectures.

Biographical papers include a wide variety of records concerning Archipenko and his first wife, Angelica Archipenko (a.k.a. Gela Forster), and second wife, Frances Gray Archipenko, including ephemera, funeral guest registers, real estate records, and floor plans of their house in Woodstock, New York; legal documents including residency permits issued during Archipenko's years in France; passports and wills: articles by and about Angelica Archipenko and a color reproduction of her portrait by Leo Katz; Angelica's reminiscences of Walter Spies; and excerpts from her diaries.

Biographical/Historical Note

Alexander Archipenko (1887-1964) was a sculptor, painter, printmaker, and teacher. Significant in Cubist movement during his years in Paris, 1908-1921; came to United States in 1923; operated his own school in Paris, 1912, an endeavor that continued throughout his life in Berlin, New York City, Woodstock, N.Y., Chicago, and Los Angeles. Invented animated painting, known as "Archipentura," circa 1924 (U.S. patent issued 1927).


In 1967, the Alexander Archipenko papers, previously on deposit at Syracuse University, were loaned to the Archives of American Art for microfilming by his widow Frances Archipenko Gray. In 1982, Ms. Gray donated most of the material previously loaned and microfilmed to the Archives of American Art, along with additional items.

Related Materials

Among the holdings of the Archives are the Donald H. Karshan papers relating to Alexander Archipenko, originally accessioned as part of the Alexander Archipenko papers, but later separated to form a distinct collection.

The Archives also has the National Collection of Fine Arts records relating to Alexander Archipenko.


Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

A Finding Aid to the Alexander Archipenko Papers, 1904-1986, bulk 1930-1964, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
Alexander Archipenko (1887-1964) was the son of an engineer/inventor and grandson of an icon painter. Among the first modern sculptors of the 20th century to be associated with the Cubist movement, Archipenko was known for his innovative use of concave space. His major contribution was the realization of negative form through use of a hole to create a contrast of solid and void. His sculpto-paintings united form and color; begun in 1912, these polychromed constructions are among the earliest mixed-media works known, and sometimes incorporated objects. Eventually, his Cubist-inspired work evolved into the simplified, abstract shapes for which he is best known. Although known primarily as a sculptor, Archipenko produced paintings, drawings, and prints as well.
At age 15, Archipenko began studying art at the University of Kiev in his native city; he was expelled three years later for criticizing the teachers. He then went to Moscow where he worked on his own and exhibited in several group shows; his first solo exhibition was held in the Ukraine in 1906.
Archipenko made Paris his home from 1908 until the outbreak of World War I. Soon after his arrival, he enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts; this association lasted but two weeks, and marked the end of Archipenko's formal training. He continued to study art by spending large amounts of time visiting art museums and painting on his own. During this period, he began exhibiting in the Salon des Independents with the Cubists, and as a member of the "Section d'Or" participated in that group's exhibitions. His first one-man exhibition in Germany was held at the Folkwant Museum (1912) and his work was featured in the Armory Show (1913).
In 1912, at the age of 25, Archipenko established his first art school in Paris. He spent the war years working quietly outside of Nice, and soon afterwards circulated an extensive exhibition of his works throughout Europe. In 1921, Archipenko settled in Berlin, opened an art school there, and married sculptor Angelica Bruno-Schmitz, who was known professionally as Gela Forster.
Archipenko's reputation was solidly established and the majority of his ground-breaking work - adaptation of Cubist ideas to sculpture, sculpto-paintings and incorporation of negative space in sculpture - was accomplished prior to his 1923 arrival in the United States. One of his most innovative works executed in America was the Archipentura, invented circa 1924 and patented in 1927, a machine with rolling cylinders that displayed "animated paintings" using motion and light. Other creations of note are carved Lucite sculptures, illuminated from within, that were executed in the mid-1940s.
Upon settling in the United States in 1923, Archipenko opened his art school in New York City; a summer school was established in Woodstock, New York the following year. Within a few years, Archipenko purchased land near Woodstock and began construction of a home, personal studio, and buildings for the school. At various times during the 1930s, Archipenko resided in Chicago and Los Angeles, and operated schools while living in those cities. For many years during the 1940s, Angelica served on the sculpture faculty at the Escuela de Belles Artes in San Miguel Allende, Mexico.
In addition to running his own schools, Archipenko taught at a number of colleges and universities, where he ran workshops, and served as a visiting professor. He wrote and lectured extensively about his philosophy of art and theories of creativity, publishing several articles and a book,
Archipenko: Fifty Creative Years, 1908-1958
Angelica Archipenko died in 1957. Three years later Archipenko married sculptor Frances Gray, a former student. During the early 1960s, the couple traveled extensively on a lecture tour that accompanied a solo exhibition to several German cities. Archipenko died in New York City, February 25, 1964.
The following chronology is excerpted from
Alexander Archipenko: A Centennial Tribute
by Katherine Janszky Michaelsen and Nehama Guralnik (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 1986) and
Archipenko: The Sculpture and Graphic art, Including a Print Catalogue Raisonne
by Donald Karshan, Ernst Wasmuth Verlag (Tubingen, Germany, 1974).
Born to Porfiry Antonovich and Poroskovia Wassilievna Machova Archipenko in Kiev, Ukraine, Russia. Father a mechanical engineer, professor of engineering, and inventor; grandfather an icon painter.
Studied and copied Michelangelo drawings from a book given him by his grandfather during a long confinement following a leg injury.
Painting and sculpture student in Kiev art school; expelled for criticizing his teachers.
First one-man show in the Ukraine. Worked in Moscow and exhibited in several group shows.
Moved to Paris and enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. Quit formal art instruction after two weeks, continued to study art on his own by visiting museums.
Exhibited in the Salon des Independants with the cubists (also in 1911-1914 and 1919).
Opened art school in Paris. "Section d'Or" formed in Paris with Archipenko among its members. The group exhibited until 1914, and briefly after World War I. First solo exhibition in Germany, Folkwant Museum, Hagen.
Represented in the Armory Show. Executed first prints (lithographs).
Began making sculpto-paintings.
Spent the war years working near Nice.
Began extensive tour exhibiting his works in various European cities (Geneva, Zurich, Paris, London, Brussels, Athens, Berlin, Munich, etc.).
One-man exhibition in the Venice Biennale.
First solo exhibition in the United States at the Societe Anonyme, Inc., New York; a symposium, Psychology of Modern Art and Archipenko, was held during the course of the show. Moved to Berlin and opened art school. Married sculptor Angelica Bruno-Schmitz [known professionally as Gela Forster]. First print commission.
Moved to the United States and opened art school in New York City.
Established a summer school at Woodstock, New York.
"Archipentura" patented ("Apparatus for displaying Changeable Pictures and methods for Decorating Changeable Display Apparatus," nos. 1,626, 946 and 1,626,497).
Became an American citizen.
Bought land near Woodstock, New York, and began construction of school and studio buildings.
Lectured on his theories of creativeness at colleges and universities throughout the United States.
Taught summer session at Mills College, Oakland, California, and Chouinard School, Los Angeles.
Moved to Los Angeles and opened art school.
Taught summer sessions at the University of Washington, Seattle.
Moved to Chicago and opened art school. Associate instructor at New Bauhaus School, Chicago.
Returned to New York; reopened art school and Woodstock summer school.
Taught at the Dalton School, New York City.
Returned to Chicago; taught at the Institute of Design.
Began making carved plastic sculptures with internal illumination.
Taught at University of Kansas City, Missouri.
Lecture tour of the southern cities of the United States.
Taught at Carmel Institute of Art, California, University of Oregon, and University of Washington, Seattle.
Taught at University of Delaware, Newark.
Elected Associate Member of International Institute of Arts and Letters.
One-man exhibition tours in Germany (Dusseldorf, Darmstadt, Mannheim, and Recklinghausen).
Taught at University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
Death of Angelica.
Awarded gold medal, XIII Biennale de'Arte Triveneta, III Concorso Internationale del Bronzetto, Padua, Italy.
Archipenko: Fifty Creative Years, 1908-1958
by Alexander Archipenko and Fifty Art Historians published by Tekhne (a company established by Archipenko for the purpose). Married Frances Gray, a sculptor and former student. Recovered plasters of early work stored by French friends since the end of World War I. Traveling exhibition in Germany (Hagen, Münster, and Dusseldorf).
Elected to the Department of Art, National Institute of Arts and Letters.
Dies in New York City.
The collection is arranged as 10 series. Lantern slides and glass plates are housed separately and closed to researchers, but listed where they fall intellectually within the collection.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1908-1964 (0.5 linear feet; Box 1, OV 28)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1922-1970 (4.1 linear feet; Boxes 1-5)
Series 3: Subject Files, 1940-1958 (6 folders; Box 5)
Series 4: Writings, 1923-1971 (3.2 linear feet; Boxes 5-8, Film can FC 30)
Series 5: Teaching, 1921-1952 (0.8 linear feet; Box 9, Film cans FC 31-33)
Series 6: Financial Records, 1923-1971 (1.5 linear feet; Box 9-10)
Series 7: Scrapbooks, 1910-1961 (1.2 linear feet; Boxes 22-25)
Series 8: Printed Material, 1913-1987 (3.7 linear feet; Boxes 11-14, 26, OV 29)
Series 9: Miscellaneous, 1916-1966 (0.5 linear feet; Box 14, 16, Film can FC 34)
Series 10: Photographic Material, 1904-1964 (3.6 linear feet; Boxes 14-15, 17-21, 26-27)
In 1967, the Alexander Archipenko papers, previously on deposit at Syracuse University, were loaned to the Archives of American Art for microfilming by his widow Frances Archipenko Gray. In 1982, Ms. Gray donated most of the material previously loaned and microfilmed to the Archives of American Art, along with additional items.
Processing Information
In 2002, the donated material previously loaned and microfilmed on reels NA1-NA25 was processed, arranged, and described by Catherine S. Gaines and the collection was remicrofilmed on reels 5826-5839. Judy Ng updated the arrangement of correspondence and the finding aid in 2014 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art. Motion picture film reels were inspected and re-housed in 2016-2017 with funding provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund.

Additional Forms Available

The collection is available on 35 mm microfilm reels 5826-5839, and NA11-NA12, NA16-NA18, and NA20-NA22 at Archives of American Art offices, and through interlibrary loan. Researchers should note that the arrangement of the papers as described in this finding aid may not reflect the order of the collection on microfilm due to reprocessing.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. research facility. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice. Lantern slides and glass plate negatives are housed separately and closed to researchers.

How to Cite This Collection

Alexander Archipenko papers, 1904-1986, bulk, 1930-1964. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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