Boris Anisfeld (1879-1973)
By Joseph Brandesky, Ph.D. © Illinois Historical Art Project
“Anisfeld is Russia. No other nation known in history could have produced him. Russia with her wide frozen still North, with her flaring heat, her scintillating brain, her undisciplined emotion, her suffering, her rebellious release from suffering, her torture, her wild response to nature, these things are all in Boris Anisfeld’s paintings, in his subject, in his design, in his color.”1
A noted painter, sculptor, stage designer, scenic artist and pedagogue, Anisfeld’s legacy is still being assessed on two continents. The life of Boris Israelevich Anisfeld encompasses two stories, one Russian and one American. Anisfeld had already made a name for himself in Russia and Europe when, like a number of his countrymen, he emigrated to America in 1917. He eventually settled in Chicago where he joined the faculty of the Art Institute, thereby introducing a generation of American artists to his vibrant sense of color and modernist sensibility.2
He was born October 2, 1879 in the town of Bieltsy, a Bessarabian city which is now part of the republic of Moldova. His family was Jewish and his father worked as an estate manager and horticulturist. They lived on a working estate adjacent to the town where young Anisfeld’s childhood was filled with laughter and music. Feodor, a beloved estate hand, spent many hours telling the Anisfeld children fantastic tales, Ukrainian folk stories and legends. The relationship between Anisfeld and Feodor also resulted in experiments in agronomy; the young boy received instruction in the cultivation of fruit trees, gardens and flowers. He showed an aptitude for horticulture and his father assumed he would follow this career path. Anisfeld spent his youth in this bucolic setting with his four brothers and sisters, Evgeniia, Dmitrii, Polina and Olga. The correspondence between Anisfeld and his sisters is filled with pleasant remembrances of the country life in Bieltsy.3 Anisfeld’s parents encouraged him to draw (at age six) and to play the violin. Anisfeld’s mother was very musical and each of the children sang Ukrainian songs and classical duets in family recitals. The adolescent Boris was described as a fine baritone. Throughout his later life, Anisfeld surrounded himself with music. His work ranged from ballet and opera sets, including New York meetings with Sergei Prokofiev the score of the 1921 premiere, Love for Three Oranges, to composing song lyrics which he set to the guitar.4
Anisfeld attended three years of secondary school in Bieltsy. His father then wanted him to enroll in the Ukrainian Agronomy school at Uman. Boris had other ideas. He wanted the freedom to pursue his chosen goal of a life in art. Thus, the sixteen-year-old country boy moved in with relatives in Odessa, where he enrolled in the Odessa School of Art (1895-1900). There he studied with G. A. Ladyzhensky and K. K. Kostandi, who was a portrait and figure painter. In 1901, Anisfeld was accepted by the Imperial Academy of Art in St. Petersburg then under the direction of the realist master painter, Ilia Repin. Anisfeld was among the first five Academy students accepted into Dmitrii N. Kardovsky’s studio. Later, Kardovsky was one of several who played a pivotal role in Anisfeld’s matriculation from the Academy in 1910.5 Financial setbacks and the death of Anisfeld’s father forced the young artist to find students of his own whose fees helped pay the cost of room, board and materials.6
The period between 1901 and 1910 is marked by a convergence of personal and professional developments in Anisfeld’s life. In 1903, he exhibited at the Academy for the first time and in 1904, he married Frieda Glaeserman, the daughter of a ceramics factory owner from Vitebsk Province, Belorus. The couple honeymooned during the spring and summer of 1905 while traveling along the Neva, Tver and Volga rivers. They also visited the Glaeserman residence in Vitebsk, located on the Dvina River. From there the trip continued down the Dnieper River to the Crimea. Anisfeld painted many scenes from this trip including oft-exhibited landscapes entitled Bathers, Evening on the River Dvina (Art Gallery of Ontario) and Crimea (location unknown). The young couple returned to St. Petersburg in the autumn and moved into a small apartment on Tutchkov Lane, not far from the Academy.7 A daughter, Morella Borisovna, was born to the couple on July 29, 1906. Anisfeld’s affinity for the “decadent” writing of Edgar Allen Poe, then in vogue in the salons of St. Petersburg Symbolist artists, suggested the unusual name for his only child, but invoked the ire of her nanny (she was shocked by the unusual, non-Judeo- Christian name), who nicknamed the child Marochka (little postage stamp).8
January 9, 1905, Tsarist troops opened fire on a peaceful demonstration in front of the Winter Palace. The event had a profound influence on Russian citizens. Anisfeld participated in the response by making drawings for a series of satirical-political journals from 1905 to 1908 including a cover for Zhupel (Bugaboo) which featured a horrific and fantastic depiction of the massacre and its aftermath.9 At the same time his work for the Academy exhibitions was noticed by artist and critic Igor Grabar, a member of the modish and influential association of artists known as Mir isskustvo (World of Art).10 Anisfeld was included in the 1905 World of Art exhibition in St. Petersburg. Impresario Sergei Diagilev made the selections for this show.11
Diagilev then gathered a group of Russian art for the 1906 Salon d’Automne held at the Grand Palais in Paris.12 Five of Anisfeld’s paintings were included.13 Anisfeld, still an unheralded Academy student in St. Petersburg, was recognized as a Societaire of the Societe des Artistes Francais for his contributions to the 1906 Paris Salon.14 Between his success in Paris and 1910, Anisfeld participated in numerous exhibitions. His work was shown with World of Art, The Wreath and the Union of Russian Artists and at regular shows in the Imperial Academy and Salon Izdebsky, in St. Petersburg, Moscow and Kiev. Abroad he exhibited in Venice, Berlin, Munich and the 1908 Vienna Secession.15
Despite Anisfeld’s successful exhibitions, the conservative jury at the Imperial Academy twice refused to grant him a diploma in 1907 and 1909. Anisfeld’s drawings for satirical/political journals between 1905 and 1908, as well as his association with the “modernist” World of Art movement, also provoked energetic opposition from the reactionary, anti-revolutionary press collectively known as the Black Hundreds, composed of a group of magazines, newspapers and pamphleteers. It was only after the intervention of Anisfeld’s mentors and friends, among them Dmitrii Kardovsky and Sergei Diagilev, he was awarded the title of Artist on January 21, 1910, for the painting Adam and Eve (1909; Stim Gallery, Prague).16 Preceding the award in 1909, Diagilev wrote a letter in support of Anisfeld to the editor of the newspaper Novoe vremia (New Time). The letter complains of the venerable Ilia Repin who had acknowledged the awards bestowed on the young painter, but still refused to honor him as a member of the Imperial Academy’s elite. Diagilev’s parting shot at the aging director and his conservative cadre at the Academy still stings: “To recognize - then not to appreciate, [the Academy directorate] are too frequently confused.”17
Anisfeld’s experiences as a scenic and costume designer for the theater are also tied to Sergei Diagilev’s experiments with Russian ballet and opera, but they do not begin with him. Anisfeld was commissioned to design the sets and costumes for a production of Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s The Marriage of Zobeide in 1906. The theatrical innovator Vsevelod Meyerhold for Vera Kommisarzhevskaia’s Dramatic Theatre directed it, in 1907. Kommisarzhevskaia had engaged Meyerhold in 1906 with the express purpose of bringing Symbolist ideals to her new Drama Theatre on Ofitserskaia Street in St. Petersburg. A facet of this aesthetic approach was the belief in colors which could be used to trigger a specific emotional response. Anisfeld was a natural choice to test these ideas because his paintings were dominated by color rather than line and his settings illustrated this predilection on a massive scale. Critical response was predictably mixed, but one commentator illustrated the reasons why Diagilev was attracted to Anisfeld’s scenic work:
“[Viktor] Kolenda disparaged the monotone abstract colors of the successive backgrounds because he saw them isolated from their secondary function: colorfully costumed figures were posed against the green-blue background (Act I) and ballet movement was shown against the red (Act II). A critic found the actors resembled Assyrian wall painting - hands bent in the shape of a gooseneck - so that one could not tell that they were not indeed painted on the wall.”18
This initial foray into theater design and scenic art led Anisfeld to collaborations with many of the era’s finest performers and artists (see timeline in the back section of this book for a complete listing). Diagilev hired him primarily as a scenic artist who executed designs by fellow World of Art painters such as Alexander Benois, Leon Bakst and Alexander Golovin. Far from feeling denigrated in his role as a “craftsman” who merely painted others designs, Anisfeld considered his work to be giant canvases and he imbued them with the same artistic qualities which distinguished his studio work. He devised methods for painting the large canvas drops on the floor with specially constructed, broom-sized brushes. He poured out pools of the required colors directly on the canvas and then worked them into the desired shapes, using a large ladder to view the canvas from above. Family members remarked later Anisfeld’s methods anticipated Jackson Pollock’s work by decades.19
Anisfeld’s settings were seen in St. Petersburg, Paris and other European cities between 1908 and 1911. He eventually designed sets and costumes for productions staged at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg and for a Diagilev production of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sadko in 911.20 By this time Paris audiences applauded Anisfeld’s execution of Bakst’s design for Scheherazade as well as Benois’ design for Petrushka.21 It is important to note how audiences, designers and critics who saw these productions mention Anisfeld’s singular contribution to the success of the Ballets Russes until 1911.22 Anisfeld broke his affiliation with the World of Art group after 1911. When Anisfeld accepted a commission from former Diagilev dancer/choreographer Mikhail Fokin in 1913, Sergei Diagilev severed all relations. Many of the performers who had helped make Diagilev famous eventually found it impossible to remain in his company for a variety of personal and professional reasons. As these dancer/artists formed new companies and needed new settings, they hired Anisfeld as designer/scenic artist.23 After Fokin, Anisfeld designed sets and costumes for companies led by Anna Pavlova and Vaslav Nizhinsky. Work for these companies generally began in St. Petersburg with tours to other European cities following the Russian premieres. This allowed Anisfeld to continue his studio work and pursue other commissions in St. Petersburg while exhibiting in European capitols.24
Anisfeld began to participate in exhibitions as an individual, as opposed to a member of a specific group or artists circle. Exhibits included the 1914 Exposition Baltique, held in Malmo, Sweden and subsequently in Amsterdam and London. He also showed at the International Exposition in Milan the same year.25 Between 1915 and 1917, he belonged to the Jewish Society for the Advancement of Art in St. Petersburg.26 But Anisfeld’s time as a Russian based artist was rapidly coming to an end. According to Marochka Anisfeld, an American entrepreneur involved in Russian and Scandinavian art named Christian Brinton, saw her father’s work in Europe before the war and scheduled an exhibition of his work in New York for 1918.27 Although no documents linking Brinton to Anisfeld before 1918 have been found, her story appears to have merit since Anisfeld petitioned for and received a visa from the Provisional Government to leave Russia via the Trans-Siberian railway to Vladivostok, by boat to Canada, then by train to New York City.28 Political and economic instability affected the Russian railway to such an extent that after waiting three weeks for a departure, Anisfeld had only two hours notice before leaving from Ptrograd. He packed numerous rolled up canvases, sketches and notebooks, and packed the possessions of his wife and daughter. The journey must have been nerve-wracking as paintings and family traveled by separate trains. By the time the Anisfelds reached Vladivostok, the Bolsheviks had toppled Kerensky’s Provisional Government. Because his visa predated the overthrow, Anisfeld was granted another exit visa by the new government.29 Two months later, a second train delivered the paintings. The family then departed for Yokohama, Japan, where they boarded the Empress of Russia and sailed for Vancouver. From there, the family boarded a train to New York, via Montreal, arriving on January 10, 1918.30
Shortly after the Anisfelds arrived in New York, Max Rabinoff, managing director of the Boston Grand Opera Company and a producer of numerous émigré events, assisted him as an agent. By April 1918, Christian Brinton, Rabinoff and Anisfeld were working out plans for an Anisfeld exhibition of 120 works. The result was a touring exhibition which opened at the Brooklyn Museum of Art in October 1918, and traveled to nine other American sites over the next two years.31
When the show opened in Chicago, it faced stiff competition as one man shows by Robert Henri and Gari Melchers were opening at the same time.32 Tribune critic Eleanor Jewett gave it a rousing critique:
“There opened… a group of exhibitions… Probably the most extraordinary are the paintings from the brush of the Russian artist… And yet, extraordinary as they are… they leave one cold and skeptically unconvinced of their peculiarities. The significance of the canvases lies seemingly in the depth and warmth of color employed, the figures and environment are of secondary moment. Rich, sensuous, vibrant, a forcing bed for the growth of exotic beings, one passes from painting to painting and color alone calls out and grips the attention demanding appreciation of its unique treatment… [in the decorative designs] You see figures, color, rises of fairy hills and stretches of mystic plains, grotesque beasts, slim distorted trees, threatening idols, ripe fruit, but beyond what you see is what you feel, that powerful, pulsating call to the senses that in some incomprehensible manner the painter has wrought into his designs and that is given back from them with the same irresistible beat that was struck from the song of the Lorelei as they sang day by day on their rocks in the heart of the river. I do not know to what degree a single canvas painted as are these might effect one, but in mass the effect is tremendous.”33
The Chicago Examiner said the paintings were giving a lot of “thrills” to visitors. “They are exotic in form and color,” and most would be “enigmatic” to the average person and claimed Anisfeld’s idea was to harmonize colors to vibrate against each other just as one would expect from sound.34
Anisfeld’s Portrait of M. V. Zamietchek (Art Gallery of Ontario), was featured with an illustration in Lena McCauley’s criticism of the show. She said he was in Chicago to superintend the hanging of the exhibition and was being received with “open minded” and “whole-hearted” hospitality. In a comment which could explain his later acceptance as a Chicago resident, she said because there had been enough previous work of “exotic and highly imaginative painting and music” in Chicago, the paths would be open to the “soul of higher appreciation untrammeled by the prejudices of a narrow education.” In a sense, she was applauding what she had observed in the “quiet” gallery where his work was viewed by presumably contemplative onlookers.35 And finally, critic “Mme. X.,” compared Anisfeld’s works to those of writer Hugh Walpole’s The Secret City, and fairly well summed up:
“Both writer and artist present their themes through a medium of prismatic colors that excites the imagination and distorts the critical faculty. The spell remains with you, shutting out realities, long after you close the book or walk down the Art Institute’s friendly steps.”36
The exhibit catalogue contained numerous high quality black and white reproductions of Anisfeld’s work, as well as an interesting, if florid, introduction by Christian Brinton. While these works were being shown across the country, Brinton arranged another exhibit in New York at the Fifth Avenue galleries of Grant Kingore during the winter of 1919-20.37
Anisfeld supplemented the income generated by the sale of his art with a resumption of design and scenic painting, now for the Metropolitan Opera. Between 1919 and 1924, he designed and painted the sets for five operas at the Met: La Reine Fiamette (1919), The Blue Bird (1919), Mefistofele (1920), The Snow Maiden (1922), and Le Roi de Lahore (1924). He joined the scenic artist’s union so he could continue executing his own designs.38 The critics lauded these designs.39
An opportunity to design the world premiere of Sergei Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges, drew Anisfeld back to Chicago by late 1919.40 He had actively collaborated with the composer at his New York studio where they discussed the score as well as the sets and costumes. Once work began on the settings in Chicago, another famous Russian émigré artist, Nikolai Rerikh (Roerich), assisted him. The production was commissioned by the Chicago Opera and opened at the Auditorium Theater with Prokofiev conducting on December 30, 1921. It received generally negative reviews, although one critic called it a brilliant evening of theater.41 Prior to the opening of the opera, Chicago art patrons were treated to a small preview by way of an exhibit at the Arts Club.42 Anisfeld’s designs were described as follows: “Never was paint applied to scene cloth more lavishly or gorgeously.”43 Eight of Anisfeld’s designs were given to the Art Institute of Chicago by the Friends of American Art. They were hung in early 1922 in the corridor of the second floor.44
Anisfeld and Rerikh had worked together in Russia with Diagilev’s projects and exhibited together as part of the World of Art circle. Rerikh established his reputation in the West through tireless self-promotion, both in terms of his art and his life philosophy, theosophy. In 1921, the Art Institute of Chicago gave Rerikh a one-man exhibition, which opened on April 15th. His contact with artists in Chicago and New York that year resulted in the formation of an artist’s group called Cor Ardens (ardent hearts), of which he was an honorary president.45 The group was active between 1921-1923. This was the only art organization, which Anisfeld joined in the U.S. His name and New York City address are included in a membership list published March 11, 1922.46
On August 23, 1922, Anisfeld completed his Declaration of Intention to become an American citizen.47 He continued to paint and design for the theater in New York, but by autumn 1922, Christian Brinton was planning a combined exhibit of Russian émigré artists for the Brooklyn Museum. Anisfeld was included in the show which included such notable artists as Sergei Sudeikin, Mikhail Larionov, Natalia Goncharova, Leon Bakst, Vassily Kandinsky and seventeen others; of the artists mentioned, all were former World of Art colleagues except Kandinsky. Three hundred sixty-two works were shown at the Museum during January and February 1923 and the show was deemed an unqualified success.48
Anisfeld returned to Chicago in 1924 for an exhibit at the Henry Reinhardt Gallery. A 1925 exhibit at the Arts Club of Chicago later that year followed an exhibit in the Boston Art Club, February 9-28. Once again, the catalogue was introduced by Christian Brinton. The Arts Club exhibit was one of four, which ran concurrently at their rooms in the North Wrigley building.49 The other exhibits featured works by Alexander Archipenko, Leopold Survage, and a group of canvasses by artists of the Whitney Studio club, including among others, two by Edward Hopper. That Anisfeld had already distinguished himself with the Chicago art community is made clear by Eleanor Jewett in her comments about the exhibit: “... [he] is a Russian with whose genius exhibitions of his paintings at the Art Institute have familiarized us.”50
Anisfeld designed two ballets (Aziade and Carnival) for fellow Russian and former Pavlova partner Mikhail Mordkin’s American tour in 1926. The productions began in Philadelphia at the time of the Sesqui-Centennial Exposition. Anisfeld was awarded a Gold Medal for his painting entitled Hispania (National Collection of Fine Arts) at the exhibit.51 A commentator from the New York Times described the Fine Arts Building which contained the exhibit as “...a joy and a delight, a thing worth traveling many miles to see.” Among the many works by international artists, which filled the double galleries, the collection of sculptures by Auguste Rodin was cited as the finest collection of his work seen outside Paris.52 Several fine examples of Anisfeld’s theater designs for the Metropolitan Opera production of La Reine Fiamette were subsequently acquired by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Anisfeld’s last designs ever to reach the stage were for Mordkin’s company. He designed sets for Puccini’s Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera in 1929, but it was not produced. From this point on, Anisfeld focused his efforts on painting and teaching.
Beginning June 3, 1929, Anisfeld accepted an invitation to serve as a visiting instructor in the graduate atelier of the School for the Art Institute of Chicago.53 Ten days later, on June 13, 1929, Anisfeld signed a contract joining the School as a Professor of Drawing and Painting. The Art Institute of Chicago Bulletin announced he was:
“...widely known as a master of color, and it is hoped that he may be able to communicate some of his brilliancy of tone to our students who, if anything, are apt to be rather sober and subdued ....”54
Thus began a twenty-six year teaching affiliation, which included appointments as head of the graduate painting department (1929-1934), life drawing and figure painting (1934-46), painting (1946-50) and still life painting (1946-1956). In 1930, the Art Institute of Chicago granted Anisfeld an Honorary Master of Fine Arts. His presence and popularity on the faculty had an immediate effect on students and administrators. Charles F. Kelley, Dean of the school, alluded to the positive and negative impact of Anisfeld’s popularity in a letter confirming his contract for the 1930-31 academic year:
“The good teaching that you have done this year is rather embarrassing us because so many students want to get into your classes, and I know that you can teach only a certain number without overworking. Many students have been coming to us and telling us that you have said they could be in your class next year. My understanding was that you did not care to teach a larger number of students than you are teaching at the present time, so this makes a rather awkward situation. Will you talk to me about it when you have time.”55
The fifty-one-year-old painter was soon credited with a positive influence on the work of two scholarship students: Tony Skupas and Don Prendergast. In a letter to the director of the Institute, Louis Kamm, a former student writing from Paris, described his surprise at the two students’ “strength of color and conception of form” and credited their progress to Anisfeld’s tutelage.56 Another student, artist John Walley, had said he was interested in theater and enrolled at the program in the Art Institute of Chicago, but was so enthused by Anisfeld’s work and personality, he switched to the fine arts school.57
Most of the painter’s energies were directed toward his students and his studio work in the early thirties. Representative examples of this work include a watercolor entitled Impression of the Dying Swan, Anna Pavlova, painted in 1930 (St. Petersburg State Museum for Theatre and Music). Anisfeld’s professional associations with Pavlova (1913, see footnote #22) are remembered in this work. The subject is Pavlova in her signature role of the Swan, slowly expiring to the intensely sentimental score by Camille Saint-Saens. The painting was recently (1997) given by the artist’s family to the St. Petersburg State Museum for Theatre and Music, to be added to its large collection of Anisfeld and Pavlova memorabilia.58
Anisfeld regularly participated in group shows in Chicago beginning in 1922, at the International Water Color Exhibition (also known as American Watercolors, the title of this show changed any times during the course of the years). His affiliation with this annual exhibit continued until 1940, by which time Anisfeld’s works had been included in the Art Institute of Chicago based show nine times.59 The 1932 Water Color show was a landmark for Anisfeld. He was the only artist given an entire room to display twenty-eight contributions to the exhibit. Once again the artist was singled out for his sense of color and for creating works which would “...fit easily into the cadences of a romantic, fantastic poem.”60
Prior to the 1932 watercolor show, Anisfeld took part in the first-ever Art Institute show by teachers at the School of Art Institute of Chicago. It opened in January 1930, and besides Anisfeld, included works by Karl Buehr and four other School colleagues. Eleanor Jewett singled out Anisfeld as one of three “modernist” artists among the pedagogues included at the exhibit (Davenport Griffen and Edmund Giesbert were the others). Jewett described Anisfeld as “a man with a strong sense of color” whose works are by turns “sturdy,” “gorgeous,” and “intriguing.”61
Anisfeld also had a long-term affiliation with the Annual Exhibitions of American Paintings and Sculpture, also shown in the galleries of the Art Institute of Chicago. Between 1926 and 1945, Anisfeld’s oil paintings were included in eleven of the exhibitions.62 Two of these exhibits resulted in accolades for Anisfeld. The first highlight took place in November 1937 when he was awarded the Martin B. Cahn Prize at the forty-eighth annual show for his work entitled Studio (Chatfield-Taylor collection). Four years later, Anisfeld participated in the fifty-second annual show, noteworthy because it was an invitational. The jury met only to award prizes.63 Anisfeld was awarded the Trustees’ Honorable Mention for his painting The Red Room (Chatfield-Taylor
collection).64 These yearly events were described by critic Edith Weigle as the “Most important in the annals of Chicago art.”65
Although Anisfeld’s Chicago years were productive in terms of his activities with group shows, his life experiences remained as turbulent as they had been since he left Bieltsy. Between 1930 and his retirement in 1956, the artist, then labeled a “modernist,” though he rejected the term, settled in his basic ideas and approach to art, found himself less and less relevant to those who were striving to discover new means of expression.
Personal tragedy overwhelmed professional disillusionment when his wife committed suicide by leaping from the window of their fourteenth-floor apartment in 1933. His daughter Maggie sought to invigorate her father with the purchase of an abandoned Victorian mansion in Central City, Colorado. The house was located in a “ghost town,” the former residence of a banker. The town had fallen victim to the depletion of silver mines some years earlier, thus the home, its richly decorated rose brocade walls preserved by the thin mountain air, cost only forty-five dollars. “The Boris Anisfeld Summer School of Painting,” a yearly event between 1934 and 1965, amounted to the teacher and one or more of his favorite current or former students spending a summer painting while living in the somewhat austere conditions of a house with no electricity or indoor plumbing.66
Maggie Anisfeld was a participant in the first two years of the “Summer School.” She briefly attended her father’s classes at the School for Art Institute of Chicago and had her own exhibit of paintings and watercolors at the Robert Breckenridge Gallery in Chicago, April-May, 1934.67 She married Otis Chatfield-Taylor in 1936 at her father’s studio, 55 West Burton Place.68 Their only child, Charles, was born October 31, 1942.69
Anisfeld’s reputation in later years rested with the careers of the many students who passed through his classes including Richard Estes, Jack Beal, LeRoy Nieman, Edgar Ewing and Rufus Bastian among many others.70 A variety of responses have been generated concerning Anisfeld and his classroom demeanor. Apparently he never became fluent in English and spoke with a thick accent. As a result, he frequently illustrated his points by personal example. Terse critiques were followed by Anisfeld’s corrections applied directly to the student’s canvas. LeRoy Nieman remembers the teacher “scraping passages from the surface, slashing gobs of paint with knife or brush, while making comments like ‘darker...brighter.’ ”71 Edgar Ewing, former student and summer academy participant elaborated:
“The concepts of tonality, unification and chromatic quality were emphasized in his teaching... The notion that a painting is so precious it can’t be touched infuriated him, for he conveyed the idea that a painting is in a constant state of flux, a flow between seeing, thinking and doing. He was greatly concerned with the phenomenology of bringing something into existence, not just as a technical display, but to have a strange personal intuitive quality.”72
Another former student, Rufus Bastian, remembers Anisfeld’s teacher/student relationship more nearly resembled that found in an atelier where apprentices learn the techniques and chemistry of their profession from a master.73 Anisfeld passed to his students valuable formulas for mixing paints and preparing canvases, information and skills he had brought with him from Odessa and St. Petersburg.74
Anisfeld retired from the School for the Art Institute on June 15, 1956. He requested a retrospective exhibit and in a letter to Daniel Catton Rich, then-Director of the Art Institute of Chicago:
“I have been waiting a long time for this opportunity to show my work at the place where I have spent so many years of my life teaching what I believed to be a sincere approach to honest art. ...this exhibition will enable me to show again those boys and girls who chose to study with me, what was in my heart and soul.”75
There were no plans for a farewell show at school until Ellen Borden Stevenson threatened to mount one herself at the Borden mansion.76 A secondary plan to feature Anisfeld in the context of the 1957 faculty show was rejected and the Boris Anisfeld Retrospective Exhibition was finally shown at the Art Institute from May 8-June 8, 1958. The retrospective consisted of one hundred and two paintings, sketches and sculpture and was seen by 50,000 visitors.77 The list of works included in the catalog indicates the majority of these were painted in the U.S. Of particular interest are two paintings which allude to his dual life: West (oil, 1943-44; ChatfieldTaylor collection), which depicts two fanciful riders on horseback in the Colorado countryside and The Mystics (oil, 1953-54; location unknown), an homage to Alexander Blok’s symbolist poem (1905) and play (1906) of the same name, Balaganchik or “The Little Fairground Booth.” The retrospective also included a handful of Imperial Academy sketches and paintings executed abroad, but the vast majority reflected work which Anisfeld completed in Chicago, Central City or New York. The handsome, but slim exhibit catalog, paid for by friends and former students, featured a number of black and white images.78
Chicago critic Edith Weigle’s comments about the retrospective show conveyed her sense of Anisfeld’s contributions to art:
“If Boris Anisfeld were not such a gentle, unobtrusive person he might be called a living monument to art. But even to think of him in terms of a monument is absurd. Quietly, all his life he has painted in his own individual way… he was not influenced enough by impressionism, post-impressionism, fauvism, or other schools of the time to become a follower of any. He always has said, ‘I paint what I feel.’ His style is uniquely his own.”79
Weigle’s comments were echoed in a profile of the artist in Newsweek, following the exhibit. Anisfeld himself responded to questions about his relationship to the contemporary art scene by saying “I do not consider myself modern anymore.” He was probably not aware of the irony of another of his statements made in reference to the prevalence of abstract art in the late fifties: “The art of today is simply decadent.”80 Fifty years earlier, Ilia Repin probably made similar comments about Anisfeld’s art when he tried to impede his graduation from the Imperial Academy in St. Petersburg. While the retrospective exhibition included ten theater designs for American productions, it was primarily devoted to Anisfeld’s paintings and sculpture and was the last comprehensive exhibit of the artist’s work in his lifetime.
A flurry of shows devoted to Anisfeld’s theater designs began in 1967, when eleven of his Russian-era works were included in a traveling exhibition entitled Russian Stage and Costume Designs.81 The show began at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and subsequently toured the U.S. through 1969. This was followed by one-man shows of his designs at the Vincent Astor Gallery at Lincoln Center, April 9-June 29, 1968 and in Washington, DC, at the Smithsonian Institution, National Collection of Fine Arts, September 30-November, 1971. Anisfeld attended the Lincoln Center exhibit opening, but his health was deteriorating.82
Anisfeld’s physical and mental health had been in a slow state of decline after his retirement. He continued to live in his Chicago studio with the aid of friends, former students and a visiting nurse, Elizabeth Lockett, until 1970. At this time, his daughter had him moved into a convalescent home in Waterford, Connecticut. He died there on December 4, 1973, at age ninety-four.
Interest in Anisfeld has remained consistently strong since his death. Seven major exhibits of his works were mounted between 1979 and 1997. Of these, four featured his Russian and American paintings and theater designs, one focused on his Russian paintings, and two dealt with his Russian and American theater designs.83 His Russian theater designs have also been shown in three larger exhibits including: 100 Years of Russian Ballet, 1830-1930 (U.S. tour, 1990), L’Art du Ballet en Russie, 1738-1940 (Paris, 1991) and Diaghilev, Creator of the Ballet Russes (London, 1996). Of particular interest is the inclusion of six of Anisfeld’s works in a comprehensive exhibition entitled Symbolism in Russia at the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg (1996).84
Anisfeld’s place as an artist defies easy categorization. He is regarded as an important contributor to early twentieth century Russian modernism, his work as a theater designer and scenic artist is both substantial and notable, and he passed on his work habits and artistic sensibilities to many of his 2000 students at the School of the Art Institute. But he never found a new aesthetic movement to identify with after his emigration in 1917. As one critic noted, Anisfeld loved America, but he remained essentially linked to turn of the century European aesthetics to the end.85 As many of Anisfeld’s student artists struggled to refine or redefine contemporary artistic processes, their teacher was looking toward his past, clinging to outmoded visual ideals. Nevertheless, Boris Anisfeld’s body of work post-1920 applies a combinative prism wherein contradictory images strongly evoke the mystery and atmosphere of religious allegories, myths (both classical and American) and human experiences. His work as an artist and influence as a teacher remains an integral link between the early twentieth century Russian and American schools of art and art pedagogy.
1 May Fanton Roberts, “The Great Russia Put on Canvas: Illustrated By the Paintings of Boris Anisfeld,” The Touchstone, Vol. 4, No. 5, February 1919, p.386.
2 For an account of this influence concurrent to the period surrounding Anisfeld’s death and memorials see: Joshua Kind, “Boris Anisfeld: Memories of Days and Atmospheres Past,” New Art Examiner, January 1982, pp.1, 12.
3 A series of five letters was received by Anisfeld from his sisters (four from Olga and one from Evgeniia) between February 1964 and September 1968. Additionally, a five and one-half page reminiscence by the sisters entitled “Boris and Childhood” describes their life in Bieltsy, Boris’ move to Odessa and eventually St. Petersburg. The letters and the reminiscence remain unpublished and are a part of the Chatfield-Taylor Collection, Stonington, Connecticut.
4 The story of Anisfeld’s collaboration with Prokofiev is recounted in: “A Conversation with the Artist’s Daughter and Nicholas Fox Weber,” Paintings by Boris Anisfeld and a Selection of His Designs for Ballet and Opera, (New York: A. M. Adler Fine Arts, 1979). Original lyrics composed by Anisfeld were discovered in the Chatfield-Taylor archives, Stonington, Connecticut, in August 1997.
5 D. Ia. Severiukhin and O. L. Leikind, Khudozhniki russkoi emigratsii [Russian émigré artists] (1917-1941), (St. Petersburg: Chernysheva Publishers, 1994), pp.20-24.
6 Op. cit., “Boris and Childhood,” unpublished manuscript, p.6.
7 Roger J. Mesley, Boris Anisfeld: “Fantast-Mystic,” (Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1989), p.2. A frequently recounted story holds that one of Anisfeld’s pupils was Marc Chagall. In 1906, Chagall attended the Vitebsk Art School and between 1908-09 he attended art classes in St. Petersburg taught by L. Bakst and M. Dobuzhinsky, see: op. cit., Khudozhniki russkoi emigratsii, p.504. It is possible, though unconfirmed, that Anisfeld and Chagall crossed paths in Vitebsk, St. Petersburg, or both during this time.
8 Besides Poe, American authors James Fennimore Cooper and Jack London were popular in turn of the century Russia. The story of Morella’s name has been recounted to the author by Anisfeld’s daughter on numerous occasions. Marochka went on to become an artist in Chicago with her first show of note in 1934. C. J. Bulliet, “Around the Galleries: Anisfeld’s Daughter,” Chicago Daily News, 4/21/1934, Art Section, p.24.
9 Op. cit., Khudozhniki russkoi emigratsii, p.20. Anisfeld’s cover drawing entitled simply 1905 (Russian Museum), depicts a mass slaughter with pale, nude bodies in the foreground and scaffolds with hanging victims in the background. Standing in the midst of the carnage are large red monsters with peering white eyes. Other drawings appeared in Adskaia pochta [Infernal Mail], Satirikon and as late as 1917, Kalendaria russkoi revoliutsii [Calendar of the Russian Revolutionary].
10 For a complete description of the rise and fall of the World of Art, see: John Bowlt, “The World of Art,” The Silver Age of Russian Culture, (Ann Arbor: Ardis Press, 1975), pp.397-432.
11 Sergei Pavlovich Diagilev was the moving force behind the World of Art movement in St. Petersburg and the Ballets Russes in Paris. His personal vision and influence changed the course of Russian art and introduced numerous Russian artists, dances, singers and composers to European audiences. A good introduction to Diagilev can be found in Charles Spencer, The World of Serge Diaghilev, (New York: Penguin Books, 1979).
12 The Societe du Salon d’Automne was founded in 1903 to advance the cause of modern art. Its members were some of the best known contemporary French artists. Exhibits were staged at the Grande Palais in Paris.
13 Diagilev personally chose twenty works by Anisfeld for the 1906 World of Art exhibit in St. Petersburg. This exhibit was subsequently moved to Paris for the Salon d’Automne. See: Igor Grabar, quoted in: I. S. Zilbershtein and V. A. Samkov, editors, Sergei Diagilev u russkoe iskusstvo [Sergei Diagilev and Russian Art: Contemporaneous Articles, Short Letters, Interviews, and Corresponence about Diagilev, two volumes], Vol. 1, (Moscow: Fine Arts, 1982), pp.398-399. Five Anisfeld paintings were shown in Paris: Bathers (Art Gallery of Ontario; location unknown for the other four), Finland, Fantasia (the name given to two watercolors), and Clouds (Crimea); Catalogue for Salon D’Automne Exposition de L’Art Russe, Paris, 1906, p. 20.
14 The story surrounding Anisfeld’s election to the Societe de Artistes Francais is related by Sergei Diagilev. Francois Jourdain, President of the Societe in 1906, informed Diagilev that Boris Anisfeld had been selected as a Societaire. Diagilev told Jourdain that Anisfeld was still a student with only a few exhibitions to his credit. Jourdain answered with a smile: “The grant [of an invitation] was freely selected and evaluated by [Auguste] Rodin, [Maurice] Denis, [Pierre] Bonnard, [Edouard] Vuillard […] – for this there is neither age nor rank limits.” This honor raised Anisfeld’s visibility in European art circles and carried with it the right to exhibit several paintings yearly at the Grande Palais without preliminary jury. I. S. Zilbershtein and V. A. Samkov, editors, Sergei Diagilev u russkoe iskusstvo [Sergei Diagilev and Russian Art, vol. 1, (Moscow: Fine Arts Publishing, 1982), p. 211.
15 Six Anisfeld works were shown at the 1908 Vienna Secession exhibit dedicated to Russian Art: At the Sea, #175 (also known as Prayer, Art Gallery of Ontario), Alder Grove, #16 (Art Gallery of Ontario), Blooming Appletree, #18 (location unknown), Reflections, #56 (location unknown), The Blue Statue, #150 (Art Gallery of Ontario), and Still Life, #163 (location unknown); Alexander Filippoff, editor, XXXI. Ausstellung Der Vereinigung Bildender Kunstler Osterreichs Secession Wien: Moderne Russische Kunst (exhibition catalogue), Vienna, November 1908, n.p.
16 Op. cit., Khudozhniki russkoi emigratsii, p.22. Adam and Eve was recently sold, along with twenty-nine other paintings and sculptures, by the artist’s family in 1997 to the Stim and Sons Gallery, owned by a Russian collector living in Prague.
17 I. S. Zilbershtein and V. A. Samkov, editors, Sergei Diagilev u russkoe iskusstvo [Sergei Diagilev and Russian Art], vol. 1, (Moscow: Fine Arts Publishing, 1982), p.211-212.
18 Marjorie L. Hoover, “Meyerhold and His Set Designers,” American University Studies in Fine Arts, No. 20, vol. 3, pp.37-38. Anisfeld designed two other Symbolist dramas: Gabriel Schilling’s Flight by Gerhart Hauptmann (1909) and The Ocean by Leonid Andreev (1910). Roza Sadykhova quotes noted Russian author and theater experimentalist Nikolai Evreinov confirming Anisfeld’s desirability as a collaborator in her essay “Boris Anisfeld in Russia,” Boris Anisfeld and Theatre, (St. Petersburg: State Museum for Theatre and Music, 1994): “[He] is a welcome friend to any theatre that is seeking new values,” n.p.
19 Maggie Chatfield-Taylor recounted this story to the author on several occasions. It is printed in “A Conversation with the Artist’s Daughter and Nicholas Fox Weber,” Paintings by Boris Anisfeld and a Selection of His Designs for Ballet and Opera, (New York: A. M. Adler Fine Arts, 1979), n.p.
20 He also worked on Leonid Andreev’s, The Ocean, which was a tragedy. It was illustrated with seven pictures by Anisfeld and published in Russia by Promeshei. The Ocean was a symbolist play which Anisfeld designed in St. Petersburg in 1910. Several of the original renderings for this production are in the Chatfield-Taylor Collection, Stonington, Connecticut.
21 Louis Weinberg, “The Art of Boris Anisfeld,” The International Studio, November 1918, p.4.
22 Statements about Anisfeld and his work appear in numerous memoirs from the period including those by Mikhail Fokin, Vaslav Nizhinsky, Leon Bakst, Feodor Chaliapin, etc. For more information see: Romola Nijinsky, Nijinsky, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1934); Alexandre Benois, Reminiscences of the Russian Ballet, (London: Putnam, 1946) and Keith Money, Anna Pavlova: Her Life and Art, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1982).
23 Anisfeld designed and executed a series of productions for the best dancers of the era: Mikhail Fokin – Islamey, 1912; Egyptian Nights, 1913; Les Sylphides, 1914; Anna Pavlova – Seven Daughters of the Mountain King, 1913; Les Preludes, 1913 and Vaslav Nizhinsky – Les Sylphides, 1914.
24 Anisfeld designed mural decorations for the city residence of a St. Petersburg banker named Wourgaft. A series of seven watercolor, tempera and charcoal sketches for this project are part of the Chatfield-Taylor Collection, Stonington, Connecticut. Little is known about the Wourgaft family, although Anisfeld’s portrait of M. L. Wourgaft was completed in New York during 1918 and first shown in the touring “Boris Anisfeld Exhibition, 1918-20.” Records from St. Petersburg show three Wourgafts (Vurgaft in Russian): L. B. Vurgaft, Mark Borisovich Vurgaft and David Borisovich Vurgaft. Of these, the first could have been the father of an M. L. Wourgaft since the middle initial represents a patronymic beginning with the letter L. Another branch of the Wourgaft family emigrated to Paris from Odessa in 1917, thus adding a possible “hometown” connection to Anisfeld’s commission (Who’s Who in International Affairs, London: Europa Publications Ltd., 1st ed. 1990, p. 458). As of 1979, the Wourgaft mansion was listed as still standing at 20 Krestovka Shore Road on Kamenny Ostrov (Stone Island) by the Leningrad Museum for the Preservation of Architecture. However, attempts by Anisfeld’s descendents to locate the mansion (Marochka in the 1970’s, her son Charles, in 1994) and examine its decorations have proved unsuccessful. Images and a conjectural description of their arrangement can be found in Thomas P. Bruhn, Boris Anisfeld -- 1879-1973, (Storrs, CT: William Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut, 1979), p.20-21.
25 Elisabeth Kashey, “Chronology,” Boris Anisfeld in St. Petersburg: 1901-1917, (New York: Shepherd Gallery Associates, 1984).
26 Op. cit., Khudozhniki russkoi emigratsii, p.22.
27 Christian Brinton was a most active supporter and proponent of Russian, and later, Soviet art in the United States. Between 1905 and his death in 1942, he organized ehxibits, authored catalogues and articles and sold art on commission for many of the best known Russian artists including: Anisfeld; Alexander Archipenko; Marc Chagall; Natalia Goncharova; Vassily Kandinsky; Mikhail Larionov; El Lissitzky; Kazimir Malevich; Nikolai Rerich and Sergei Sudeikin. A chapter on his efforts with Russian art may be found in: Robert C. Williams, Russian Art and American Money: 1900-1940, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980), pp.83-110.
28 Maggie Chatfield-Taylor’s version is quoted in op. cit., Paintings by Boris Anisfeld…, Adler Fine Arts, 1979. Rufus Bastian cites a different story in his essay, “Boris Anisfeldt: Man, Artist, Teacher,” School of the Art Institute of Chicago Alumnus, Anisfeld personnel file, Ryerson Library archives, Art Institute of Chicago, Summer 1968. Mr. Bastian states that Anisfeld had been invited to New York by Giulio Gatti-Cassaza, then Director of the Metropolitan Opera. This story has as much, or more, merit than the Brinton connection since Anisfeld’s sets and costumes had been seen by Gatti-Cassaza at the Met when both Diagilev’s (featuring scenery painted by Anisfeld) and Anna Pavlova’s (Seven Daughters of the Mountain King and Les Preludes, designed and painted by Anisfeld) companies performed there in 1916. Catalogues of the tours confirm the inclusion of Anisfeld’s work and in Pavlova’s case, several photos of the sets are shown. Catalogues are in the personal archives of the author.
29 Discussions between Russian historians and the author lead to a scenario where the visa, which had been issued for non-political reasons, was reinstated because Bolshevik authority had not yet been completely organized in the Russian Far East (Vladivostok). His artwork, particularly the work entitled 1905 (Russian Museum), had been critical of the Tsarist regime.
30 A brief description of his escape route is recounted in “The Fantast Art,” “News Of The Art World,” supplement, Chicago Evening Post, 10/29/1918. Critic Lena McCauley termed him “the leading representative of the recent so called Fantast School of Russia.” See also: op. cit., Roger J. Mesley, Boris Anisfeld: Fantast-Mystic, pp.7-8.
31 See “Russian Paintings to be Shown at Brooklyn Museum,” New York Times, 10/ 20/1918, sec. 4, p.4; “Arts at Home and Abroad,” New York Times, 10/27/1918, sec. 4, p.4 and op. cit., Chicago Evening Post, 10/29/1918, p.2. A description of the show also appears in op. cit., Roger J. Mesley, Boris Anisfeld: Fantast-Mystic, pp.9-10.
32 Two works from the exhibit, The Garden of the Hesperides (Art Gallery of Ontario) and Study in Black and White (depicting the artist’s wife, Frieda; Chatfield-Taylor Collection) were reproduced in Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, May 1919, Vol. 13, No. 5, pp.70-71.
33 “Art by Eleanor Jewett,” Chicago Sunday Tribune, 4/6/1919, Part 8, p. 7.
34 “Anisfeld’s Paintings Give Thrills to Visitors at Institute; Melchers’ and Henri’s Work Powerful,” Chicago Examiner, 4/10/1919, AIC Scrapbooks, Ryerson Library, Art Institute of Chicago.
35 Lena M. McCauley, “Boris Anisfeld,” “News Of The Art World,” supplement, Chicago Evening Post, 4/8/1919, AIC Scrapbooks, Ryerson Library, Art Institute of Chicago.
36 Mme. X, Chicago Tribune, 4/13/1919, AIC Scrapbooks, Ryerson Library, Art Institute of Chicago.
37 Robert C. Williams, Russian Art and American Money, 1900-1940, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980), p.88. Williams states that Anisfeld was guaranteed a 25% share on all sales.
38 Joe Brandesky, “Boris Anisfeld and the Theatre: An Exhibit,” Theatre Design and Technology, Vol. 33, No. 1, Winter 1997, pp.52-53. In this essay, the author also noted designer Joseph Urban was credited with introducing European stagecraft to Boston as early as 1911, and later to the Metropolitan Opera in 1917. But whereas Urban employed others to execute his designs, Anisfeld continued his favored method of painting his own settings.
39 Two New York Times reviews singled out Anisfeld’s contributions. For example, Richard Aldrich described the five settings for Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Snow Maiden as: “...all in their way extraordinary in drawing, perspective, color and design...,” see: “Snegourotchka at the Metropolitan,” 1/24/1922, p.16. while Olin Downes commented on Jules Massenet’s Le Roi de Lahore: “[Anisfeld] has been let loose by the Metropolitan to his most gorgeous, and he has done it [...] it is futile to enumerate the colors with which the settings and costumes are saturated, heaped together like an immense pile of jewels, surmounted at the back of the stage, high up, by the golden throne of Indra, and permeated in an impressionistic manner with the design of the lotus flower…,” “The Early Massenet, Le Roi de Lahore,” 3/1/1924, p.8. In “ ‘The Blue Bird’ in Music and Picture,”Arts and Decoration, Vol. 12, January 1920, p.187, the critic commented that it was the artist rather than the composer who was the star of the evening. For extensive review of the work see also “The Blue Bird Set to Music at The Metropolitan Opera House: And Staged by Boris Anisfeld,” The Touchstone, Vol. 6, No. 3, December 1919, pp.90-96.
40“ Boris Anisfeld,” Chicago Evening Post, 4/8/1919, AIC Scrapbooks, Ryerson Library, Art Institute of Chicago.. Anisfeld came to Chicago in April 1919 to supervise the hanging of one hundred of his paintings for a show at the Art Institute of Chicago. He was back in Chicago by December 1919 as part of a “colony” of stage design artists which included Norman-Bel Geddes and Herman Rosse, see: American Magazine of Art, December 1919, Vol. 11, p.73.
41 “Prokofiev’s Opera in Chicago,” New York Times, 1/8/1922, Section 6, p.4.
42 “The Art Dealers,” “News of the Art World,” supplement, Chicago Evening Post, 12/13/1921, AIC Scrapbooks, Ryerson Library, Art Institute of Chicago.
43 Op. cit., New York Times, 1/8/1922, Section 6, p.4.
44 Eleanor Jewett, “Anisfeld Drawings of Opera Settings Given to Institute,” Chicago Tribune, 1/15/1922, Part 9, p.5. These works are still in their collection.
45 Eleanor Jewett, “Art and Architecture,” Chicago Tribune, 8/7/1921, Part 9, p. 4. Rerikh had also been conducting classes in the studio of Ralph Clarkson in the Fine Arts Building, while working on a production of the Snow Queen. This teaching undoubtedly served to spread his influence. See: “Persons and Events,” “News of the Art World,” supplement, Chicago Evening Post, 10/25/1921, AIC Scrapbooks, Ryerson Library, Art Institute of Chicago.
46 The aims of the organization are found in the catalog of the Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture by American Cor Ardens, (Chicago: Arts Club of Chicago, 1923): “[t]o form a brotherhood of Artists which is international; to hold exhibitions without juries, without prizes and without sales; to present concerts, drama and the dance, publish works of writer and composer members...; to work for the establishment of universal museums where works donated by members may have a permanent home.” Other members included Norman Bel-Geddes and Robert Edmond Jones (theater designers) and Eugene O’Neill (playwright). Anisfeld was joined by Chicago area painters such as Flora Israel Schofield, Walter Ufer and Rudolph Weisenborn, all three featured with essays in this book. (documents concerning the incarnation of Cor Ardens provided by the Illinois Historical Art Project). The title may come from Russian Symbolist poet and theorist Viacheslav Ivanov who published two collections of poetry and prose with that title in 1906 and 1912. Cor Ardens is translated variously as “ardent hearts” or “fiery hearts.” For more information concerning Cor Ardens as a symbol see Michael Wachtel’s “Viacheslav Ivanov: From Aesthetic Theory to Biographical Practice” in Creating Life: The Aesthetic Utopia of Russian Modernism, (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1994), pp.161-64. Author Jacob Z. Jacobsen maintained a few years later that it was Rerikh who was the founder of Cor Ardens. See: Thirty-five Saints and Emil Armin, (Chicago: L. M. Stein, 1929), p.101.
47 Op. cit., Roger J. Mesley, Boris Anisfeld: Fantast-Mystic, p.23.
48 “Brooklyn Museum Shows Russian Art,” American Art News, 1/27/1923, p.6 and “The World of Art: Russian Art and the Architectural League,” New York Times Magazine, 1/28/1923, Section 4, pp.12, 15. The Times article describes some of the artist’s works and discusses the history of the World of Art, including the important 1906 Salon d’Automne exhibition in Paris. A comparison is made between the Russian show and another show running concurrently at the Architectural League.
49 In March 1923, the Arts Club had featured works by fellow Russian Leon Bakst, see: Blanche C. Matthias, “Arts Club,” Chicago Herald-Examiner, 3/12/1923, AIC Scrapbooks, Ryerson Library, Art Institute of Chicago. Chicago had in fact seen a steady stream of Russian art in its galleries and on stage, much of which was summarized in “Russian Art Pervades Chicago Galleries,” Christian Science Monitor, 3/22/1923, p. 16.
50 “Art and Artists,” Chicago Sunday Tribune, 2/15/1925, part 9, p.4; see also, “Exhibits at Arts Club,” part 9, p.2.
51 This painting was first exhibited at the “Boris Anisfeld Exhibition” in 1918. A black and white image of the painting was included in the catalogue and was described as follows: “A Spanish synthesis, begun in Hendaye, 1913; finished in Petrograd, 1917…,” n.p.
52 “Sesquicentennial Is Now Complete,” New York Times, 8/ 22/1926, sec. E, p.1-2.
53 In October 1929, the Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, Vol. 23, p.119, stated Anisfeld has been added to the faculty after serving “...twice as visiting instructor in the Graduate Atelier with marked success.” However, Anisfeld’s employment records from the Ryerson Library archives, Art Institute of Chicago refer to only one appointment as a visiting instructor for the week beginning June 3, 1929.
54 Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, Vol. 23, October 1929, p.119.
55 Letter to Anisfeld from Charles F. Kelley, 6/11/1930, Anisfeld personnel file, Ryerson Library archives, Art Institute of Chicago.
56 Letter to Robert B. Harshe from Louis Kamm, 11/24/1931 and letter to Kamm from Harshe, 12/11/1931, Anisfeld personnel file, Ryerson Library archives, Art Institute of Chicago.
57 Conversation between Joel S. Dryer, Illinois Historical Art Project and Lloyd Engelbrecht, 8/4/1998.
58 Although the painting is dated 1930, one wonders whether it might have actually been rendered in response to the news of Anna Pavlova’s death on January 22, 1931. Two later oil versions of this subject, The Dying Swan (1938; private collection, Florida) and Anna Pavlova (1940; location unknown), were included in Anisfeld’s 1958 retrospective exhibit. Maggie Chatfield-Taylor recounts two stories concerning meetings between her family and Pavlova in op. cit., Paintings by Boris Anisfeld…, Adler Fine Arts, 1979, n.p.
59 Peter Hastings Falk, editor, Art Institute of Chicago, The Annual Exhibition Record, (Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1990), pp.66-67.
60 Eleanor Jewett, “Water Color Show at Institute,” Chicago Tribune, 4/3/1932, Part 8, p. 5. See also Ernest L. Heitkamp, “Water Color Exhibitions on at the Art Institute,” Chicago Herald and Examiner, 4/3/1932, AIC Scrapbooks, Ryerson Library, Art Institute of Chicago.
61 “Teachers of Art at Institute Show Their Own Paintings,” Chicago Tribune, 1/2/1930, p. 17. Anisfeld is profiled by Marguerite B. Williams in “About a Painter Without Theories,” Chicago News-Journal, 1/8/1930, AIC Scrapbooks, Vol. 57, Ryerson Library, Art Institute of Chicago. Williams describes the self-portrait which accompanies the essay as depicting Anisfeld “...under the stress of fiery emotion.” This painting was given to the St. Petersburg State Museum for Theatre and Music by the artist’s family in 1994 and can also be seen on the cover of: Boris Anisfeld and the Theatre, (St. Petersburg, Russia: State Museum for Theatre and Music, 1994). The exhibition traveled in the United States to: Alma Gallery, Ohio State University at Lima, 1997; Canzani Gallery, Columbus, Ohio College of Art and Design, 1997 and Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas at Lawrence, 1997.
62 Op. cit., Falk, Art Institute of Chicago, The Annual Exhibition Record, pp.66-67.
63 Eleanor Jewett, “November Full of Interesting Art Exhibits,” Chicago Sunday Tribune, 11/9/1941, part 7, p.5.
64 A black and white image of this painting can found in Boris Anisfeld. Retrospective Exhibition, (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1958).
65 ”Fine American Art Exhibited in Annual Show,” Chicago Sunday Tribune, 11/2/1941, part 6, p.5. Some of the other participants in the show included, Aaron Bohrod, Ivan Albright (featured in this book with an essay), Alexander Brook, Randall Davey, George Grosz and Grant Wood.
66 Edith Weigle, “His Style is His Own – Romantic, Realistic,” Chicago Tribune, Section 6, 12/23/1973, pp.8-9.
67 “Art Students Invite Public to Sale Today,” Chicago Tribune, 4/25/1934, p. 15.
68 Op. cit., Rufus Bastian, School of the Art Institute of Chicago Alumnus, Summer 1968. Bastian remembers drinking champagne with a tuxedoed Anisfeld after the wedding: “He recalled how in the same suit he had been presented on the Met stage with [French symbolist author, Maurice] Maeterlinck, after a first night of ‘The Bluebird’... the audience, wild with enthusiasm, gave him a standing ovation for his scenery designs.”
69 Both Maggie and Charles currently reside in Connecticut. Maggie has spent the last three decades promoting her father’s paintings and theater designs through exhibitions, gallery sales and donations to collections.
70 Lists of notable students are available in op. cit., Roger J. Mesley, Boris Anisfeld: Fantast-Mystic, pp.12-13, Op. cit., Rufus Bastian, School of the Art Institute of Chicago Alumnus, Summer 1968 and Alan G. Artner, “An In-Depth Survey of a Deliberate and Influential Painter,” Chicago Tribune, 12/4/1981, Sect. 4, p. 10. Artner mentions Anisfeld was “...the rarest of teachers, one who could work with students as different as Eleanor Coen, Dean Meeker, Joan Mitchell, Juliet Rago and Seymour Rosofsky, giving them all something, but still permitting them to develop directions of their own.”
71 Op. cit., Roger J. Mesley, Boris Anisfeld: Fantast-Mystic, p.34.
72 Op. cit., Roger J. Mesley, Boris Anisfeld: Fantast-Mystic, p.35.
73 Op. cit., Rufus Bastian, School of the Art Institute of Chicago Alumnus, Summer 1968.
74 The Russian texts for Anisfeld’s formulae and techniques exist in several notebooks dating from his St. Petersburg years. They are stored in the Chatfield-Taylor Collection.
75 Quoted in a letter to Hubert Ropp, Dean of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from Daniel C. Rich, 1/3/1957, Anisfeld personnel file, Ryerson Library archives, Art Institute of Chicago.
76 Harold Haydon, “Tribute to a True ‘National Treasure,’” Chicago Sun Times, 12/23/1973, p.4. Haydon’s comments about the retrospective were written seventeen years later in this commemorative essay.
77 “Joy Turned to Horror,” Newsweek, 6/23/1958, p.71.
78 Boris Anisfeld: Retrospective Exhibition, (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 1958), thirty-eight black and white images, n.p.
79 “His Style Is His Own - Romantic, Realistic,” Chicago Sunday Tribune, 5/18/1958, part 7, p.7.
80 “Joy Turned to Horror,” Newsweek, 6/23/1958, p.71. A picture of Anisfeld is included with the caption: “I paint what I feel.”
81 Russian Stage and Costume Designs for the Ballet, Opera and Theatre, (New York: International Exhibitions Foundation, 1967), pp.10-13.
82 Maggie Chatfield-Taylor described her father’s failing health to the author on several occasions.
83 The four mixed exhibits were mounted at: William Benton Museum of Art (1979); Adler Fine Arts (1979); Gilman Galleries, Chicago (1982) and Shepherd Gallery, New York (1984). The paintings only show occurred at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (1989). The Russian and American theater designs were at the St. Petersburg State Museum for Theatre and Music (1994) and at an exhibition which traveled to the: Alma Gallery, Lima, Ohio; Canzani Gallery, Columbus, Ohio and the Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, Kansas in 1997.
84 Simbolizm v rossii [Symbolism in Russia], (St. Petersburg: Palace Edition, 1996). Four of the six Anisfeld items are illustrated, including the cover for Bugaboo entitled 1905 (Russian Museum). See footnote 5 in the catalogue for description.
85 Op. cit., Kind, New Art Examiner, January 1982, pp.1, 12.