1878 Oct.2. Boris Israelevich (Srulevich) Anisfeld is born in Bieltsy, in the Russian province of Bessarabia, into the family of Srul Ruvinovich Anisfeld, an estate manager, and Gitlya Istkovna Anisfeld. Until he is seventeen, the future artist lives in his parents’ home. He learns German and French.
1885 Anisfeld learns to play the violin, and begins to take up drawing.
1895 Anisfeld enters the Odessa Drawing School, where he studies with K. K. Kostandi, at that time the leading teacher of portraiture and figure painting in Odessa. He meets V. A. Izdebsky, S. L. Abugov, and D. D. Burliuk.
1900 Anisfeld enters the Imperial Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg. His first teacher is P. O. Kovalevsky, a specialist in battle scenes.
1901 Due to poor health (according to a medical certificate), Anisfeld takes a leave of absence, and spends the summer in Odessa.
1902 Anisfeld transfers to I. A. Repin’s class, which Repin’s assistant D. N. Kardovsky directs after 1903. (In 1907, Kardovsky becomes a full professor of genre and portrait painting). Anisfeld lives in Bolshaya Spasskaya str., 15, app. 23 on the Peterburgskaya Storona [Petersburg Side], shares the apartment with A. Savinov, who is also studying with Kardovsky. He spends some time in Finland and journeys also to Norway.
1903 The Academy’s Advisory Council of Arts denies Anisfeld a one-time grant of financial aid. Yet twice - in March and December - his sketches are praised.
1904 The Academy’s Advisory Council decides to give Anisfeld a one-time grant. With the understanding of the Academy that he will apply himself to his art studies, Anisfeld spends the summer traveling around Russia - and also every summer thereafter, until 1909. In December, he marries Frieda Glaeserman, the daughter of a well-off Pskov merchant. She, apparently, had been taking art lessons with Anisfeld.
1905 The artist and critic I. E. Grabar ‘discovers’ the young painter, and introduces him to S. P. Diaghilev. Anisfeld joins a circle of artists who are close to The World of Art group. That summer, he and his wife travel along the Neva and the Western Dvina, and then via the Dnepr to Crimea, where they spend some time in Gurzuf, and meet Maxim Gorky.
1905-06 Anisfeld does illustrations for the satirical journals Zhupel (Bugbear), Adskaya Pochta (Hell’s Mail), and V. L. Burtsyev’s Calendar of the Russian Revolution.
1906 Anisfeld stays in Paris in Jan. and Feb. For the first time, he participates in exhibitions of the Union of Russian Artists, in Moscow, and of the World of Art in Petersburg. One of his watercolors, Flowers is acquired by the Tretyakov Gallery. Anisfeld is now living on Vasilevsky Island, Bol’shoi Prospekt, number 8/4, apt 34. Diaghilev organizes an exhibit of Russian art at the Paris Salon d’Automne. Anisfeld is a participant, and is one of six Russian artists chosen as Societaires. Diaghilev’s exhibition is continued in Berlin, at the Kunstsalon Schulte. Together with L. Bakst and M. Dobushinsky, Anisfeld teaches at A. Zvansteva’s art school. I. A. Repin supports Anisfelds’s request to the Advisory Council of the Academy, for permission to travel abroad for half a year. He apparently uses only two or three months.
1907 Anisfeld spends several months in the south of Russia for reasons of health. He finishes his courses at the Higher Art School of the Imperial Academy, and is granted a year to produce his graduation painting. Anisfeld undertakes his first work for the theater: the sets for Hugo von Hoffmannsthal’s Marriage of Zobeide, at V. F. Kommissarjevskaya’s theater on Offitserskaya Street, V. E. Meyerhold directing. In the Fall, Anisfeld works for the first time for Diaghilev’s Russian Seasons, executing A. Ya. Golovin’s designs for Boris Godunov in cooperation with E. E. Lanceray, K. F. Yuon and S. P. Yaremich.
1908 Anisfeld works for the satirical journal Satyricon, and participates in a number of exhibitions: the Fall exhibition of the Higher Art School of the Imperial Academy, in the Wreath, and at the Vienna Secession. In December, the Council of the Academy rejects his graduation painting Danae, and allows him to submit another painting in the following year. The Anisfelds’ daughter Morella is born.
1909 Anisfeld receives permission from the Academy to go abroad, and spends April in Paris, where he shares a studio with S. Yaremich. As an executor of sets for Diaghilev’s Russian Seasons, he spends a few weeks in Paris every Spring until 1912. In the Fall, Anisfeld submits Adam and Eve to the Advisory Council of the Academy as his graduation piece. In October, the Council of the Academy again refuses to grant him his degree. Only after the vehement protests of some of the Academy’s teachers, a campaign of support for the artist in the press, and the personal intervention of the President of the Academy, the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, does the Advisory Council reverse its decision. Anisfeld is graduated in Jan. 1910.
1910 P. I. Chaikovsky’s ballet The Four Seasons,staged by the pupils of the Imperial School of Choreography at their annual review on March 26, is apparently the first collaborative project of Anisfeld and Fokine. Anisfeld executes Bakst’s designs for Sheherezade in Paris, and spends the summer in Concarneau in Brittany.
1911 During the winter, Anisfeld executes A. N. Benois’ designs for Petrushka, and that Spring, in Rome and Paris, he creates the sets and costumes for The Undersea Kingdom. This is the only design work for Diaghilev’s Russian Ballet which is entirely his own. He spends the summer in Capri. The New York Metropolitan Opera buys Anisfeld’s sets for Boris Godunov from the Paris Grand Opéra. On November 29, Anisfeld signs a contract with the management of the Imperial Theatres for the execution of sets and costumes for Islamey. The work is to be completed not later than January 15, 1912. He lives in Tuchkov pereulok, 15 on Vassilyevsky Island.
1911-1913 Anisfeld attends D. A. Kiplik’s newly established workshop for pictorial materials and technique, at the Imperial Academy. He studies fresco technique.
1912 After Fokine breaks from Diaghilev, Anisfeld reaches an understanding with Fokin to design his productions for 1913. The artist spends the summer in Gris am Brenner in the Tyrol, and the winter-with Fokine-in Berlin and Stockholm. While in Petersburg, he lives on Vasilevsky Island, Sredny Prospekt, number 3/15, apt. 14.
1913 On March 13, Anisfeld signs a contract with the management of the Imperial Theaters to design the sets and costumes for Liszt’s Les Preludes.The work is to be completed on Mar. 13. He spends the summer in Hendaye, France, San Sebastian, Spain, and in Millstatt in the Austrian Alps. Anisfeld takes an apartment at No.7 Geislerovsky Pereulok,6-on the Petersburg Side. This is to be his final address in Petersburg.
1914 In February and March Anisfeld is in London, where he creates sets and costumes for V. Nijinsky’s productions of (L'après-midi d'un faune [The Afternoon of a Faun], Les Sylphides, Le Spectre de la Rose) at the Palace Theater. The theater’s fire brigade destroys the set for Faun. Liszt’s Les Préludes is performed by Anna Pavlova’s troupe on the stage of the Manhattan Opera. This is the first time that an American audience has seen Anisfeld’s theater work. The artist spends the summer in Venice, takes part in the Baltic Exhibition in Malmö, Sweden, and returns to Petersburg through Finland at the outbreak of the War. In Petersburg, he is commissioned to paint murals in the villa of the wife of the banker A. M. Wourgaft, on Kamenny Ostrov (Stony Island). Some time that year or possibly a little later, he has preliminary discussions with the Joussupoffs about decorative work in their Fontanka palace.
1915 Anisfeld becomes a member of the Jewish Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, and participates in a number of charitable auctions for the support of needy artists and other social groups.
1916 Anisfeld makes a trip to Bilbao, Spain, in connection with a staging of The Undersea Kingdom. He paints F.I. Chaliapin’s portrait.
1917 In August, Anisfeld gets an exemption from military service. He completes at least eight major paintings for an exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, receives an export permit for his paintings, and leaves Petrograd with his wife and daughter in Sept. His route takes him to Vladivostok, to Yokohama, thence to Vancouver and across Canada to New York. The artist is already acquainted with the New York impresario Max Rabinov. In Petrograd, S. Abugov manages to safeguard Anisfeld’s apartment and studio for some time.
1918 Anisfeld arrives in New York with a letter of recommendation from V. D. Nabokov, the editor of the Petrograd paper Речь [Ryech / Speech], and a collector of Anisfeld’s theater sketches, addressed to Herman Bernstein, the New York publicist and translator of M. Gorky and L. Andreev. A two years itinerant one-man exhibition of Anisfeld is organized by the New York impresario Max Rabinov, together with a connoisseur of modern Russian art, Christian Brinton, and the director of Brooklyn Art Museum William H. Fox. The exhibition starts in Brooklyn followed by other venues throughout the United States in the following years. This touches off an ardent discussion between advocates and opponents of Anisfeld’s art and proves to be a great success. Public and private collections start to acquire Anisfeld’s works. December 20 Anisfeld signes a contract with the Kingore Galleries, New York.
1919 Anisfeld lives in 200 West 57th Street in New York. On the 30th June Anisfeld concludes a contract with the Chicago Opera Association for the execution of sets and costume designs for Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges with a completion date of November 30, 1919. The ball at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel marks the beginning of a “Campaign for Happiness” (Chairmen of the Executive Committee Mrs. William K. Vanderbilt) on the day of the premiere of The Blue Bird (December 27).
1920 Anisfeld attempts to use his authority to eliminate difficulties with the production of The Love for Three Oranges in Chicago.
1921 On May 28 The Russian and Ukrainian Artist’s Association auctions off several pictures donated by N. Roerich and Anisfeld in the Plaza Hotel, New York. Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges with sets and costumes by Anisfeld at the Civic Opera is a great success in Chicago.
1922 Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera The Snow Maiden (Snegourochka) , with sets and costumes by Anisfeld, opens at the Metropolitan Opera, and is a great success. Max Rabinov conceives of a project to establish an institute for the performing arts at Stony Point New York, with Anisfeld, S. Sudeikin, L. Bakst and J. Urban as collaborators. Anisfeld and Sudeikin later share a studio space in a large barn on this property. Anisfeld becomes member of an artist’s group called Cor Ardens (honorary president: N. Roerich), the only art organization which he joined in the USA.
1923 Anisfeld joins the Scene Painters Union, along with Norman Bel Geddes. Finally the remaining pictures from the Baltic exhibtion in Malmö (Sveden) arrive at the Brooklyn museum.
1924 An exhibition of 90 works by Anisfeld is shown in Baltimore, in the Reinhardt Gallery in New York, in Chicago, and in Boston. Anisfeld establishes a summer home in Croton-on-Hudson.
1925 Anisfeld executes the sets and costumes for Wladimir Boritch’s childrens’ pantomime The Magic Night. It is performed five times at the Garrick Theater in New York.
1926 Anisfeld becomes an American citizen. He wins a gold medal from the Philadelphia exposition for his painting Hispania, and designs costumes for two productions of Mikhail Mordkin’s Russian Ballet. The Metropolitan Opera declines to accept his costumes and set designs for a production of Turandot. With Max Rabinov acting as an intermediary, Anisfeld conducts negotiations about a possible project with the Mexico City Opera.
1927 Los Angeles Grand Opera Association negotiates with Anisfeld to do sets for the season of 1928.
1928 Anisfeld moves to Chicago with his wife and daughter. After some time in a residential hotel, Anisfeld and his family move to an apartment building on Ohio Street. Between February 14 - 18 he teaches as a visiting instructor of Advanced Painting classes at the AIC. In summer he travels by car around the American Southwest, visiting Santa Fe, Taos, and Southern Colorado.
1928-1958 Anisfeld frequently spends the summers in the Western US. ( Colorado and New Mexico)
1929-1957 Anisfeld teaches as head of the Department of Advanced Painting at the Art Institute of Chicago.
1930 A fire at a warehouse in Stony Point NY destroys the sets for The Snow Maiden and The Love of Three Oranges. Anisfeld travells to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and also visits Taos.
1933 Anisfeld’s wife commits suicide. His daughter, Morella Borisovna Anisfeld, buys him a house in Central City Colorado.
1934-1965 The artist runs “The Boris Anisfeld Summer School of Painting”. He lives in Old Town Chicago from the mid 30s almost until his death at the Kogan Apartments, a purpose built apartment / studio complex for artists.
1937 Anisfeld is awarded the Martin B. Cahn Prize for his work entitled Studio at the 48th Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture (Chicago).
1941 Anisfeld is awarded the Trustee’s Honorable Mention for the painting The Red Room at the 52nd Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture (Chicago)
1944-1958 Jack Beal, Leon Golub, Red Grooms, Robert Indiana, LeRoy Neiman each spends a year at Anisfeld’s class at the AIC.
1947 Anisfeld is a member of Jury of Pepsi-Cola’s Annual Art Competition in New York.
1958 After nearly two decades of relative obscurity Anisfeld's former students initiate a Boris Anisfeld Retrospective Exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. The New York Times publishes a concise biography of Anisfeld.
1962 Due to a gift by Mr. and Mrs. William McCormick Blair to the Pension Fund of the Art Institute of Chicago, Anisfeld’s pension is increased.
1963 Anisfeld wins the Art Award of the Immigrants’ Service League, Chicago.
1965 The Alumni Association of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago endows the Boris Anisfeld Award.
1973 Boris Anisfeld dies December 4 in New London, Connecticut.