Two fine, mystical prints from the extraordinary series of Art Deco compositions by Andrey Avinoff (1884-1949). These are among his most famous illustrations, crossing the boundaries between symbolism and surrealism. "The Fall of Atlantis" series was inspired by George Golokhvastoff's epic poem of the same name. Avinoff (a.k.a. Avinov), was a gay Russian polymath, an entomologist who for 20 years served as Director of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History (1926-1946). He is recognized as one of the world's greatest butterfly collectors. Indeed, Avinoff was the first person that Vladimir Nabokov contacted upon arriving in the United States; indeed, Nabokov portrayed him as the Central Asian lepidopterist Godunov-Cherdyntsev in "The Gift"). His lasting friendship with sexologist Alfred Kinsey is also well documented.
Today, Avinoff's meticulous paintings continue to be praised: his paintings and drawings of flowers and butterflies are quite simply amazing. Much of his Surrealist artwork is overtly homoerotic (for obvious reasons, this was very uncommon in America during the 1940s). These are often read as symbolist fantasies / nightmares which may feature iridescent butterflies, exquisitely detailed flowers, nude men, translucent surfaces, reflective elements such as water, bubbles, gems, jellyfish and towering occult symbols, as here.
The poem by George V. Golokhvastoff was first published in 1938; Avinoff's portfolio was published in limited edition in 1944 under the title "The Fall of Atlantis: A Series of Graphic Impressions." Avinoff had been so impressed by the poem that he offered to provide the artwork at no charge; he told a friend: "the poem is a rather tremendous creation of some two hundred and fifty pages and is far more involved than Paradise Lost with some Faustian qualifications."
Ad 1 ("Mystery of the Isle"). Artist's description: "With the growth of the driving power of the past, the thirst for learning and for knowledge of the mystery of existence passed from the realm of the instinctive into that of Consciousness, and there emerges the first spark of memories! The Engima of duration and immortality is connected with the fate of Atlantis. The spiral of time unfolds its projection on the boundless ocean of eternity, which carries the successive reflections of the Zoroastrian fire burning in the center of the spiral, the luminous Egyptian sign of duality and life- the Ankh, and the star, recognized by the Magi. The center of the Ankh is projected on the serene countenance of the spirit of Atlantis with her eyes shining like two celestial luminaries. The theme of the image is a fusion of the dynamic unfoldment of progression with the imperturbable rest of the static."
Ad 2 ("The Birth of the Twins"). Artist's description: "The picture is a kind of verticle triptych. The upper part shows an encircled fiery sign of AUM in the center of three halos and the wings of Horus, shaped like a mask. The central part is the zodiacal belt with Taurus and Cancer on either side of the sign of Gemini which is projected on the image of the Royal Twins; their hands are joined by a star. Their identical crowns are adorned with the sign of the Ankh as a symbol of the scheme of the High Priest which ultimately will bring about their tragic fate. The lower part, a more realistic picture, shows two falling stars above the distant silhouette of the island of Atlantis. (Inventory #: 1593)