A Modernist Woman

Alexander Archipenko (1887-1964) is for me the artist who invented Modernist Woman.

This fabulous image is taken from his sketchbooks c.1920. What’s the difference between a modern woman and a Modernist woman? See the protagonist of my novel Anyone’s Game.   When I invented Sophie Asmus, born in Moscow in 1900, Archipenko was one of my guides. I wanted her life to have a Modernist  inspiration, as if the art of the Russian CuboFuturist period had given birth to her. So I made her sexy, single, fashionable, sharp and intellectual, a kind of mixture of the art of Kasimir Malevich and the spirit of Virginia Woolf. Sophie Asmus would have known who this sometime fashion designer called Archipenko was and in whose spirit she did her own designing.  In hard times she made Futurist outfits in the kind of triangular tailoring shown here. She bought a man’s suit from the second-hand shop and cut it and restitched it according to her own pattern traced out on a Communist Party newspaper. When she arrived in London people had seen nothing like it except on the scene of Diaghilev’s ballets russes. A few years later she was describing herself in Paris as une femme dadaiste, a daringly independent woman who had no desire to sign up to being a member of this or that comunity or persuasion or creed. Dada was a non-movement in art, and that was just what she aspired to be in her womanhood.

To go back to Archipenko, his name is pronounced as if the ‘ch’ were an ‘x’, and the stress is on the ‘pen’. It sounds like Arxy-pyenko. Wasn’t it Duchamps who made a joke out of difficulty for a Frenchman and called him Archie Pen Co.? I think so. The Archipenko Foundation, http://www.archipenko.org, is the first source for details of this avant-garde artist, sculptor and graphic artist. A Ukrainian born in Kiev, he moved to France in 1908 and exhibited there with Russian avant-garde artists like Sonia Delaunay and Nathan Altman.  From 1923 he lived in the US.

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