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 Aleksei Matveevich Prokofiev  (1859 - )

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Lived/Active: Russian Federation      Known for: painting

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Shoreline at Twilight
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Jackson's Auctioneers & Appraisers:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Alexei Matveevich Prokofiev was an accomplished and noted painter of landscapes.  He lived and worked primarily in St. Petersburg.  He studied first at the School for the Encouragement of Artists in St. Petersburg and then at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts under the tutelage of noted landscape painter Arkhip Kuindzhi (1841-1910) whose influence on Prokofiev is unmistakable.

He was a regular exhibitor at the Imperial Academy Spring Exhibition at least since 1897, and was later a member and exhibitor at the Kuindzhi Society.  According to the Official Catalogue of Exhibitors, Universal Exposition, St. Louis, U.S.A. 1904, page 284, Prokofiev exhibited 12 canvases (numbers 218-229) under the heading, “Members of the Spring Exhibition of the Imperial Academy of Arts, St. Petersburg.”  After the Revolution, Prokofiev became a county inspector and teacher in the Alatyr school district and died near there in 1925. 

Russian paintings exhibited at the World`s Fair, St. Louis, 1904 tell a story of intrigue, money, and politics.  The Russian exhibition at the St. Louis World`s Fair was the largest art collection ever sent abroad by one country to another.  While the Russian exhibit included many of the few well-known Russian artists of the time such as Ilya Repin and Nicholas Roerich, most works were by younger and lesser-known artists, many of whom had agreed to send their paintings to America in hopes of attracting attention in the marketplace.  Shortly following the conclusion of the exhibition, however, it was discovered that the necessary – and costly – tariffs required to display these paintings in the United States had not been paid. 

What followed was a controversial chain of events that eventually brought the matter to the desk of then U.S. President, William Howard Taft.  The works were ultimately impounded by the U.S. Customs Department and then offered for sale in a highly publicized public auction in San Francisco in 1912, where the vast majority of the paintings were purchased by Frank Havens, a wealthy Oakland, California businessman who owned a Piedmont art gallery.  While Havens kept some paintings, most were sold most off over the years, with many sold in a private auction in Oakland in October 1916.  From time to time one of these "St. Louis Russian paintings" enters the market to become rediscovered.

See: Robert C. Williams, Russian Art and American Money, Harvard University Press, 1980.

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