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Alexander Archipenko

 (1887 - 1964)
Alexander Archipenko was active/lived in New York, California / France, Russian Federation.  Alexander Archipenko is known for modernist sculpture, drawing-figure, etching.

Alexander Archipenko

    ahr-chi-PEN-koe  speaker-click to hear pronunciation  click to hear

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Alexander Archipenko
An energetic teacher and pioneering modernist sculptor of abstract human forms, Alexander Archipenko created one of the first multi-media sculptures, composing it of wood, glass and wire.   He experimented continuously with the effects of negative and positive space.  He began his career with a Cubist style and then turned to simplified, abstract shapes with hollowed out parts of the bodies, especially where one might expect curves.

His American works include Archipentura, a machine he invented in 1924 that showed paintings in motion.

He was born in Kiev, Russia and studied at the art school in his native Kiev from 1902 to 1905, when he was expelled for criticizing the academic attitudes of his teachers.  In 1906 he moved to Moscow and in 1908 to Paris, where he left the Ecole des Beaux-Arts after two weeks' study, again showing his impatience of discipline. Instead, he studied ancient and medieval sculpture in the Louvre, and some of the work of his early years in Paris (mainly female figures) is done in a primitive manner recalling Egyptian art.

In Paris he worked with Amedeo Modigliani and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska.  Around 1910, he was introduced to Cubism by Fernand Leger, whose studio was near his own.  As a result of this influence, Archipenko became one of the better-known of the Cubist sculptors creating abstract figures with his principal subjects being variations of 'Torsos in Space.'  In works such as the bronze, Walking Woman (Denver Art Museum, 1912), he sculpted the human figure into geometrical forms and opened the figure with concavities and a central hole to create a contrast of solid and void.  This approach ushered in a new sculptural idiom.  George Heard Hamilton writes that "This is the first instance in modern sculpture of the use of a hole to signify more than a void, in fact the opposite of a void, because by recalling the original volume the hole acquires a shape and structure of its own".

In the same year, with "Medrano I" (destroyed), Archipenko began making sculptures that were assembled from pieces of commonplace materials, paralleling the work of Picasso. Medrano II (Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1913) is made of painted tin, wood, glass and painted oilcloth.  (Medrano was the name of a circus in Paris much frequented by artists, and these two figures represented performers there).

Archipenko exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Independants, and in 1912, he and the Duchamp brothers formed a group called Section d'Or, a dissident Cubist group with which he exhibited for several years.  That same year, he opened his own art school in Paris and had a one man show in Hagen, Germany.  He also exhibited in the Armory Show in New York in 1913 and lived in Nice, France from 1914 to 1918.

In 1921, he moved to Berlin where he opened another art school, and in 1923 immigrated to the United States and founded the Guild School in New York City as well as other locations including Chicago, Los Angeles, and Woodstock.  He became an American citizen, living most of the remainder of his life in New York, but he taught short courses in numerous schools around the country including the Universities of Kansas City, Delaware, Washington, and Oregon.

Sources include:
Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art
Matthew Baigell, Dictionary of American Art
Masterworks Fine Art

Biography from the Archives of askART
Biography photo for Alexander Archipenko
Born in Kiev, Russia on May 30, 1887. Archipenko worked in Paris until 1923 when he moved to the U.S. While in Los Angeles in the 1920s, he taught at the Chouinard Art Institute. He was active in San Francisco in the 1930s and taught at Mills College in Oakland until 1937. He died in New York in February 1964. Exh: Museum Folkwang Hagen (Germany), 1912 (with Duchamp, Braque, Léger, and Picasso); LACMA, 1927 (solo); CPLH, 1929. In: major U.S. museums.

Edan Hughes, "Artists in California, 1786-1940"
Who's Who in American Art 1936-62; NY Times, 2-26-1964 (obituary).

Nearly 20,000 biographies can be found in Artists in California 1786-1940 by Edan Hughes and is available for sale ($150). For a full book description and order information please click here.

Biography from Hollis Taggart Galleries
Born in 1887 in Kiev, Ukraine, Archipenko attended the Kiev Art School. He began to sculpt in 1904 and as a student was awarded his first commission from a wealthy Polish patron. Although young, innovative, rebellious, and against academic tradition, Archipenko was also deeply influenced in Byzantine painting, frescoes, and mosaics. After being expelled from art school in Kiev, he lived for a short time in Moscow, where he associated with a group of avant-garde artists, before leaving Russia for Paris in 1908.

Shortly after his arrival in Paris, he met Fernand Léger and became absorbed into the heart of the European avant-garde circle, which included Apollinaire, Delaunay, Gleizes, Metzinger, Picabia, Marcel Duchamp, and Raymond Duchamp-Villon among others. Archipenko had his first exhibition at the 1910 Salon des Indépendants, the historic first showing in Cubism, in which his sculpture appeared along with Duchamp-Villon's. In the following years he exhibited frequently both in Paris and abroad. In 1912 he had his first solo exhibition in Hagen, Germany at the Museum Folkwang and in 1913 exhibited at the Armory Show in New York. In 1914, at the Salon des Indépendants, he exhibited "Medrano II," his renowned sculpture exhibiting the influence of the Futurism, especially Boccioni's rendering of the figure as combination of dynamically moving geometric planes in his famous sculpture "The Unique forms of Continuity is Space," 1912 (Museum of Modern Art, New York). Archipenko's 1914 exhibition received a glowing review from Apollinaire, who praised the artist's experimental use of "different materials—glass, zinc, wood—all polychromed. It represents a very great effort to go beyond the conventional in sculpture" (1) In addition, Archipenko's works were frequently reproduced in avant-garde journals including "Der Strum" and the Futurist journal "Lacerba." The artist's interpenetration of form and space articulated in "Medrano II" and other works of this period would be significant to the development of modern sculpture, influencing constructivist Naum Gabo, Jacques Lipchitz, Henry Moore and others.

During World War I, Archipenko lived outside of Nice, where he focused on what he termed "sculpto-painting," colorful and relatively low relief sculpture supported on panel. As the artist described it: "a panel uniting colors and forms…interdependencies of relief, concave or perforated forms colors and textures…made of papier-mâché, glass, wood or metal…(2) He continued to work on the sculpto-paintings in the early twenties after his return to Paris, where he threw himself back into the development of his career with vigor. From 1919-1923 he exhibited throughout Europe including Geneva, London, Zurich, Brussels, and Athens. In 1921, at the invitation of Katherine Drier and Marcel Duchamp, thirty-three of his works were presented at the Société Anonyme in New York. The exhibition, which Duchamp publicized with an ironic Dada poster introducing Archie Pen Co with an image of one of the artist's nude torso sculptures transformed into a futurist ball-point pen, attracted considerable attention among the New York avant-garde.

In 1923 Archipenko moved to New York and for the remainder of his career he taught and worked in the U.S., becoming a citizen in 1928. He established a number of art schools in various locations including New York City, Woodstock, Los Angeles and Chicago and taught at the New Bauhaus and at many other colleges and art schools throughout the country. In his own work, his style shifted in the later years to include more naturalistic representations of the figure and classical themes, although he never departed from abstraction. In 1960 Archipenko published a survey of his oeuvre "Archipenko: Fifty Creative Years 1908-1958." He died four years later on February 25 in New York.

1) Katherine Jánszky Michaelsen and Nehama Guralnik, "Alexander Archipenko: A Centennial Tribute" (Washington D.C.: National Gallery of Art and Tel Aviv Museum), 29.

2) Ibid, 39.

© Copyright 2008 Hollis Taggart Galleries

Biography from Hirschl & Adler Galleries, Inc.
Biography photo for Alexander Archipenko
The Ukranian-born artist, Alexander Archipenko, was among the most original and innovative sculptors of the twentieth century.  His primary contributions to the modern art lexicon included substituting voids for solids, applying color to the sculpted surface, and employing mixed media in his constructions.  Even in the avant-garde hotbed that was his adopted city of Paris, Archipenko's startling originality took the public by storm.   Though he did not call himself a Cubist, he was closely aligned with them, and many considered him to be the first to successfully translate the Cubist aesthetic into three-dimensional form.

Archipenko grew up in Kiev, the son of an engineer.  (For a complete discussion of the artist's life and work, see Katherine Janszky Michaelsen and Nehama Guralnik, Alexander Archipenko: A Centennial Tribute, exhib. cat. [Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1987].)  Though often at odds with his father, Archipenko was clearly influenced by his analytical thinking.  The artist decided early on that mathematics lay at the foundation of all art, and believed in the overarching importance of innovation, preferring to call his aesthetic ideas "inventions."

He shunned academic conservatism from the start and that insatiable desire for the new led him from his homeland to Paris in 1908, at the age of twenty-one.  He quickly fell in with the city's most dynamic group of modernists and Cubists including Fernand Leger, Marcel Duchamp, Robert Delaunay, Juan Gris, and the critic, Apollinaire.  By 1910, he was exhibiting with the cubists at the Salon des Independants, and the next year at the Salon d'Automne.

Archipenko dazzled Parisian audiences with his revolutionary approach to form, material, and color.  Like the Cubists, he distilled form to the essentials, smoothing surfaces, and eliminating anatomical detail by literally chopping off limbs.  Among his most radical and Cubist-inspired innovations was his use of convex and concave shapes to convey the concept of solid and void being of equal value.  In 1912, having achieved celebrity status, he opened the first of many art schools.  And his reputation reached America in 1913 when he was featured in the notorious Armory Show in New York.  Archipenko did not actually move to America until 1923, when he hoped to capitalize on his fame of the past decade and, indeed, the sense of myth that had come to surround him.  He quickly opened an art school in New York City and another at the artist colony of Woodstock, New York.

Submitted December 2004 by Thomas B. Parker, Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York City.

Donald H. Karshan, Archipenko: The Sculpture and Graphic Art, Including a Print Catalogue Raisonné (1974), p. 113

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© 2001 Estate of Alexander Archipenko / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

About  Alexander Archipenko

Born:  1887 - Kiev, Russia
Died:   1964 - New York City
Known for:  modernist sculpture, drawing-figure, etching