The White House Gallery

Alexander Archipenko

Born in Kiev, Ukraine, in 1887, Archipenko grew up seeing the stylized Byzantine images prevalent in that culture, including icons painted by his grandfather. He began his art training in Kiev, but moved to Moscow in 1906, quickly becoming a member of art circles there. Two years later, Archipenko moved to Paris, where the museums provided a chance to study masterworks of painting and sculpture, including the solid and expressive forms of Egyptian, early Greek, and Assyrian art. He was greatly interested in the new approaches being explored by artists in Paris, and within a short time, he was making sculpture that reflected stylistic innovations, including cubism.

Archipenko’s work was inventive, breaking the figure into geometrical forms and creating lively interplays of solid forms against hollows and voids. He began exhibiting with the cubists and other avant-garde artists in Paris at the Salon des Indépendants in 1910 and continued to do so until 1914. He opened his own art school in Paris in 1912, and in that same year, joined a circle of artists known as the Section d’Or, a group that included Léger, Braque, Gris, and Picasso. The 1913 Armory Show in New York included four of Archipenko's works. At that time, he also began to make carved and painted reliefs. Called “sculpto-peintures”, these works were distinctive in blurring the lines between sculpture and painting.

During World War I, Archipenko moved to Southern France, and after the war to Berlin, where he opened an art school. He traveled widely throughout Europe, exhibiting his work in major urban centers. His first solo exhibition in the United States was held in 1921, sponsored by the Société Anonyme in New York. In 1923, the artist moved to the United States, opening art schools in New York and Woodstock. Always intrigued by new materials and techniques, he invented a mechanical system called “peinture changeante” (or “Archipentura”) for applying paint to canvas, creating sequences of colored surfaces. This device was featured in a one-man exhibition in 1928, the same year in which he became a U.S. citizen. For the rest of his life, Archipenko continued to teach at art schools and universities across the country and to create his sculpture, which was widely exhibited throughout the United States and Europe. He died in New York in 1964.