Michael G. Chepourkoff Biography

Michael G. Chepourkoff




Information sourced from the AskArt biography written by the artist's daughter, Vivian Chepourkoff Hayes:

Painter, printmaker, and sculptor Michael Gabriel Chepourkoff was born in Lugansk, Russia, on November 12, 1899, to Anna and Gabriel Chepourkoff. Gabriel was killed in the 1905 revolution, and Anna remarried a Russian merchant, Sergei Kriukoff, who moved the family to Siberia. Art came later in life to Chepourkoff, as his first goal was to become a doctor. When he was of age, Chepourkoff enrolled in the Real School, a preparatory high school in Blagoveshchensk on the Amur River, with the intent to study medicine. However, in 1919 he was sent to military school and was soon conscripted into the White Army to fight the Bolsheviks. As the White Army began to lose, Chepourkoff was forced to cross the frozen Amur into Harbin, Manchuria with his fellow troops. He found a post at a military hospital until 1923 when China revoked the rights of Harbin Russians, who then found themselves stateless, unable to find protection in China or in Soviet Russia. This would have a lasting effect on Chepourkoff's political outlook and creative work.

Chepourkoff found safe harbor in Japan, and from there he traveled to San Francisco. He worked briefly at a factory and in 1926 was able to afford entry into the University of California, Berkeley. He placed as a junior at the school and he found his path in art, earning his M.A. with honors in 1928. As the Depression ensued, he found work as a cartoonist and a theater set designer, as well as employment in the WPA's Federal Art Project, continuing to do fine art work for himself on the side. He created a series of metal sculptures to be shown at the Golden Gate Exposition in 1939 - however, as a WPA member, he was not given credit for these works. 

During World War II his experience with sheet metal got him work as a repairman on docked warships. This furthered his knowledge of the medium and he would continue to work in metal for the rest of his life, establishing a unique style that eschewed welding, soldering, and rivets, employing instead the use of snips and a rawhide hammer to "curl" the metal into abstracted animal and human forms. he also continud to work in watercolors and fine prints until his death on March 13, 1955.

San Francisco Art Association, 1938 - 1940
San Francisco Museum of Art, 1939
GGIE: 1939
Dorian Gallery, 1945

Cheproukoff's work is held in the collection of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In May of 1950, Popular Mechanics wrote a feature on his metal sculputre technique (Lee Edson. "Caricatures in Metal." Popular Mechanics, May, 1950, p. 142.)