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

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 (1960).
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).
1887
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.
1900
Studied and copied Michelangelo drawings from a book given him by his grandfather during a long confinement following a leg injury.
1902-1905
Painting and sculpture student in Kiev art school; expelled for criticizing his teachers.
1906
First one-man show in the Ukraine. Worked in Moscow and exhibited in several group shows.
1908
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.
1910
Exhibited in the Salon des Independants with the cubists (also in 1911-1914 and 1919).
1912
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.
1913
Represented in the Armory Show. Executed first prints (lithographs).
1914
Began making sculpto-paintings.
1914-1918
Spent the war years working near Nice.
1919-1920
Began extensive tour exhibiting his works in various European cities (Geneva, Zurich, Paris, London, Brussels, Athens, Berlin, Munich, etc.).
1920
One-man exhibition in the Venice Biennale.
1921
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.
1923
Moved to the United States and opened art school in New York City.
1924
Established a summer school at Woodstock, New York.
1927
"Archipentura" patented ("Apparatus for displaying Changeable Pictures and methods for Decorating Changeable Display Apparatus," nos. 1,626, 946 and 1,626,497).
1928
Became an American citizen.
1929
Bought land near Woodstock, New York, and began construction of school and studio buildings.
1932
Lectured on his theories of creativeness at colleges and universities throughout the United States.
1933
Taught summer session at Mills College, Oakland, California, and Chouinard School, Los Angeles.
1935
Moved to Los Angeles and opened art school.
1935-1936
Taught summer sessions at the University of Washington, Seattle.
1936
Moved to Chicago and opened art school. Associate instructor at New Bauhaus School, Chicago.
1938
Returned to New York; reopened art school and Woodstock summer school.
1944
Taught at the Dalton School, New York City.
1946-1947
Returned to Chicago; taught at the Institute of Design.
1947
Began making carved plastic sculptures with internal illumination.
1950
Taught at University of Kansas City, Missouri.
1950-1951
Lecture tour of the southern cities of the United States.
1951
Taught at Carmel Institute of Art, California, University of Oregon, and University of Washington, Seattle.
1952
Taught at University of Delaware, Newark.
1953
Elected Associate Member of International Institute of Arts and Letters.
1955-1956
One-man exhibition tours in Germany (Dusseldorf, Darmstadt, Mannheim, and Recklinghausen).
1956
Taught at University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.
1957
Death of Angelica.
1959
Awarded gold medal, XIII Biennale de'Arte Triveneta, III Concorso Internationale del Bronzetto, Padua, Italy.
1960
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).
1962
Elected to the Department of Art, National Institute of Arts and Letters.
1964
Dies in New York City.