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Victor Mikhail Arnautoff papers, 1920-2017, bulk 1920-1953

Biographical Note

Victor Mikhail Arnautoff (1896-1979) was an artist and art teacher known for his murals. Arnautoff was born in the Ukraine and served in the Russian army during World War I. After a defeat in Siberia, he crossed into China, where he remained for five years. In China he met and married his wife Lydia, and they had their first two sons.
In 1925 Arnautoff went to San Francisco to study at the California School of Fine Arts. He continued with his family to Mexico in 1929 and became an assistant to muralist Diego Rivera. While in Mexico, his third son was born, and Arnautoff met Bernard Zakheim, with whom he would later work on the Coit Tower murals. Arnautoff and his family returned to San Francisco in 1931 and in 1934 he was chosen to paint one of the murals at the Coit Tower with funding from the Public Works of Art Project. Arnautoff was one of the most prolific muralists in San Francisco in the 1930s, completing murals at Coit Tower and the Palo Alto Clinic, as well as the Presidio chapel, George Washington High School, and the California School of Fine Arts library. He also painted murals at five post offices in California and Texas.
Arnautoff began teaching at the California School of Fine Arts in 1936. He taught at Stanford from 1938 to 1962 and also taught art courses at the California Labor School.
Following the death of his wife in 1961, Arnautoff retired from teaching at Stanford and returned to the Soviet Union in 1963. While living there he continued to create works of art and published a memoir. He died in Leningrad in 1979.