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Boris Artzybasheff was born in Kharkiv, Russia. His father, Mikhail, was an author. He fought during the Russian Revolution in the White Army.
Artzybasheff’s education was cut short in 1917 at the age of eighteen due to the Russian Revolution. He was separated from his parents, and came to America without the ability to speak English. He arrived with 14 cents in his pocket. He found work at an engraving shop thanks to an immigration officer. He already showed the aptitude of a great draughtsman. His mature skills opened doors to new opportunities for him.
His artistic career started in the 1920’s doing art deco illustrations for books. These flat and graphic illustrations were often black and white in stark contrast to his later work. In his lifetime, Boris illustrated some 50 books, of which his most well known, As I See, he wrote himself. Around 1940, he dedicated himself to commercial work, cranking out more than two hundred covers for Time, countless illustrations for Life Magazine, as well as advertisements for many companies.
Comments On Style
Perhaps one of the most flexible artists, Artzybasheff’s style ranged from flat, graphic designs to meticulously rendered compositions. He did technical drawings of machinery, portraits, whimsical illustrations for books, silly comics, and even some typography. Sometimes he worked with strong black and white shapes, while other compositions are delicately laid out with subtle colors and careful treatment of value. To credit Artzybasheff with a single style is to pigeonhole him where he does not belong. Boris Artzybasheff was a master of many very diverse styles, but they are all unmistakably his own.
Artzybasheff was strongly influenced by the then contemporary, representational surrealist movement. This shows in his anthropomorphized characters, his juxtaposition of unrelated objects, and his realistic rendering of subjects.
Artzybasheff was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1928 for illustrating Dhan Mukerji’s Gay Neck.
Heller, Stephen. The Graphic Design Reader. New York : Allworth Press, 2002.
Vadeboncoeur, Jim. Boris Artzybasheff Biography.
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