Robert W. Cherny
Victor Arnautoff and the Politics of Art
University of Illinois Press 2017
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in ArtNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in BiographyNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Russian and Eurasian StudiesNew Books Network October 4, 2017 Mark Klobas
Best remembered today for his work as a muralist, the Russian-American artist Victor Arnautoff lived a life worthy of Hollywood. In Victor Arnautoff and the Politics of Art (University of Illinois Press, 2017), Robert Cherny details the both range of Arnautoff’s activities and how the views born of those experiences influenced his work. Born in Russia, Arnautoff’s service as a cavalry officer for the anticommunist White forces in the Russian Civil War forced him to abandon his homeland for an involuntary exile, first in China, then in the United States. Long interested in a career as an artist, his studies of art in San Francisco during the 1920s led to a two-year period working for the famous Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. Returning to San Francisco during the depth of the Great Depression, Arnautoff quickly emerged as one of the greatest talents on the regional art scene, with works that championed the working man and criticized the brutalities of capitalism. Arnautoff’s embrace of Communism by the end of the 1930s and his association with Soviet consular officials both during and after World War II brought increasing attention from the U.S. government during the postwar “Red Scare” era, with their monitoring of his activities ending only with his return to the Soviet Union in 1957.