Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Disturbing Brilliance of Boris Artzybasheff


Boris Artzybasheff (1899 - 1965) was a Ukrainian-born illustrator active in the United States, notable for his strongly worked and often surreal designs.

Artzybasheff was born in Kharkov as son of the writer Mikhail Artsybashev. He is said to have fought as a White Russian. In 1919 he arrived in New York City, where he worked in an engraving shop.

His earliest work appeared in 1922 as illustrations for Verotchka's Tales and The Undertaker's Garland. A number of other book illustrations followed during the 1920s. Dhan Gopal Mukerji's Gay-Neck, with his illustrations, was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1928. Over the course of his career, he illustrated some 50 books, several of which he wrote, most notably As I See.

During his lifetime, however, Artzybasheff was probably best known for his magazine art. He illustrated the major American magazines Life, Fortune, and Time (including more than 200 Time Magazine covers over a 24-year span between 1941 and 1965). During World War II, he also served an expert advisor to the U.S. Department of State, Psychological Warfare Branch.

His graphic style is striking, to put it mildly. In his commercial work he explored grotesque experiments in anthropomorphism, where toiling machines displayed distinctly human personalities. In his personal work, he explored the depiction of vivid and extreme ranges of human psychology and emotion.

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