Untitled [Sun rays through side windows, Grand Central Station] by Alexander Artway
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Gelatin silver print
Printed circa 1935
Alexander Artemiev was born March 25, 1903 in Gomel, Belarus, Russia. He was the youngest child of nine children. His prosperous family educated him in the gymnasium (prep school) where his older brother was the principal. Russia was in great turmoil in 1917, and Alexander, as well as so many others, was caught up in these changing times. He fought as a young teenager in the White Army. He said he liked the uniform and had to do this for his family’s land and property. In the army he was wounded in his left leg, which gave him trouble all his later life. He fled and went into exile for many years in Europe (Belgrade, Prague, Paris), until he was able to enter America. He arrived at Ellis Island in June of 1922 under the name Alexander Artway.
For the next 18 years Artway remained in New York City. He had to learn a new life; adjusting from living on a sprawling Russian farm to very close urban quarters. He worked more with his hands than with his mind, since his European degrees were meaningless in the United States. Away from all family but his brother John (Sergei), Alexander had to seek out new connections. He found Lena, a woman whose family was still in Ukraine. The two explored the city together and carried on an affair that lasted many years.
From his photographs it appears he was both excited and lonely. From his letters we can see that he was very attached to his mother and family back home. In fact, he returned to Russia in 1936 and 37 to see them; a very risky business.
Artway’s vintage prints have recently been organized by his daughter and have been shown successfully at art fairs in Los Angeles as well as in New York City.