The art of Andrey Avinoff, 1884–1949


Man Emerging from a Tree Stump (no date).

Yet another artist I’d be unlikely to have come across had it not been for the web. Andrey Avinoff’s art manages to be both mystical and homoerotic in equal measure and there’s a good selection of his paintings and drawings to be found in a collection at the Kinsey Institute. Avinoff was an entomologist and worked as director of the Carnegie Museum along with that other famous butterfly enthusiast, Vladimir Nabokov. He was also a friend of Alfred Kinsey’s for many years and the art which Kinsey collected seems (perhaps inevitably) more sexual than the artist’s mystical work or his butterfly pictures. As with other artists discussed here, we learn that “he may have been homosexual”, an equivocation which seems particularly silly when looking at his study of a (naked) young man entitled My Special Longing. He was also a Nijinsky enthusiast and one of his portraits has the dancer as a naked faun bestride an overgrown butterfly.


left: Standing Nude Man with Figure of Saint (no date); right: Nijinsky (1918).

Biographical details aside, Avinoff was an accomplished draughtsman with a very striking imagination in some of these drawings. His Man Emerging from a Tree Stump depicts a collection of organic extrusions blended with human details—faces, hands and phallic eruptions—remarkably similar to some of the mutant growths seen in Austin Spare’s work, most of which would have been completely unknown to the wider world at that time. It would have been nice to see this kind of imagery taken into his illustrations for George Golokhvastoff’s The Fall of Atlantis but his drawings there are more traditionally Symbolist, lacking the unfettered intensity of Spare at his best.


left & right: The Fall of Atlantis (1944).


Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The gay artists archive
The fantastic art archive
The illustrators archive

3 thoughts on “The art of Andrey Avinoff, 1884–1949”

  1. Interesting stuff. That drawing of the man emerging from the tree-stump slightly reminds me of James Bidgood’s Faun.

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