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 Boris Artzybasheff  (1899 - 1965)

About: Boris Artzybasheff


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Lived/Active: New York/Connecticut / Russian Federation      Known for: magazine illustration, fantasy machines, portrait painting

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BIOGRAPHY for Boris Artzybasheff
1899 (Kharkov, Russia)
1965 (Lyme, Connecticut)

New York/Connecticut / Russian Federation

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magazine illustration, fantasy machines, portrait painting

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
How does one describe or categorize Boris Artzybasheff? From his very earliest work in 1922 as a 23 year old immigrant from Russia to his 200+ Time Magazine covers over a 24-year span, there is a common thread of strong design and a light heart. Equally at home with a portrait of Stalin and a Venusian 'do-it-yourselfer', he was a master of composition and a superb draughtsman.

He illustrated some 50 books, several of which he wrote. While his Time covers showcased his work to millions, he probably made the biggest impression on the American public with his insightful, satirical and powerful images done for Life Magazine in the early forties on the various faces of war. These humanize the aspects and weapons and villains of WWII in a comic but sobering way.

Many of these appear in his great book, As I See. Also shown in great abundance therein are his Mechinalia - his anthropomorphic tools ranging from a monkey wrench to The Blooming Mill. Just the hilarious Neurotica would be a sufficient content, but with images as diverse as the one from The Circus of Dr. Lao and others reminiscent of Wally Wood, Hirschfeld, Dali, Disney and Wolverton, the full range of his work becomes apparent.

"Range" is the proper word for Artzybasheff, and this is obvious in his time covers--- Realistic portraits and almost surreal backgrounds, carefully crafted to suit each individual assignment. Always they are unique and fresh, yet unmistakably Artzybasheff.

After 1940, he devoted himself to commercial art. He was also an expert adviser to the U.S. Department of State, Psychological Warfare Branch during WWII. After seeing the Neurotica drawings in As I See, this side of his career becomes less of a puzzlement.

Artzybasheff died in 1965. A book he illustrated, Dhan Mukerji's Gay Neck, was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1928. Most of his book illustrations favored the crisp line and careful composition that are so distinctively his.

Other books illustrated by him include: Feats on the Fiord (1924), The Wonder Smith and His Son (1927), Mizra, Son of the Sword (1934), and the dust jacket engraving for All Things Are Possible (1935) and some atypical, but stunning pencil drawings for Nansen (1940), probably the last book he illustrated.

Written, 1999, and submitted by Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr., Bud Plant Illustrated, Palo Alto, CA.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Boris Artzybasheff was an illustrator of nearly 50 books, some of which he authored, and over 200 Time magazine covers. His themes during the 1940s primarily focused on the war with his powerful images being very satirical and insightful.

Boris Artzybasheff immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1922 at age 23. Being a superb draftsman, he was able to weave a lighthearted, yet strong flavor into his works. His illustrations were diverse, unique, and refreshing for the time. He had the ability to cover many ranges, and his work is reminiscent of Hirschfeld, Disney, Dali, Wolverton and Wally Wood.

Because of his background, he served as an adviser to the Psychological Warfare branch of the U.S. State Department during World War II.

Artzybasheff was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1928 for his illustrations in Dhan Mukerji's book, Gay Neck.

He died in 1965.

Walt Reed, The Illustrator in America

Biography from Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum:
Although Boris Artzybasheff’s work has been viewed by millions of people, he produced over 200 covers of Time magazine from 1941 to 1965, he remains somewhat of an enigma. He was born in Russia in 1899, and according to unconfirmed sources, he fought with the White Russians before immigrating to the United States in 1922. He was a skilled draftsman, and found work illustrating in New York City, primarily children’s books, of which he eventually illustrated over fifty.

Various histories state that he served as an advisor to the Psychological Warfare branch of the US Department of State during World War II; however, it was the War Department, that maintained this branch. It is also possible that he worked with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), a US intelligence agency under the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Regardless, he was vehemently anti-fascist, and did work for the Office of War Information (OWI) producing War Bond posters, to raise funds for the US Government to pay for the war effort.

Artzybasheff produced a book of his own artwork, As I See (New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company, 1954) which provides his anthropomorphic illustrations of Neurotica (neuroses and addiction), Mechinalia (machines), Diablerie (war), and Escapades (afflictions of emotion). His prose is lyrical, filled with metaphor, and often dispirited. He writes, “It would seem to me there is very little human about men at times, except their shape.”

Artzybasheff died in Lyme, Connecticut on July 16, 1965. His archives reside at Syracuse University.

Submitted by Hunter Hollins
National Air and Space Museum
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC


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