Early Years in Russia
The artist, Anatole Alexandrovich Efimoff, was born November 21, 1897 to well-to-do parents in the Russian city of Ufa in the Urals. Anatole’s artistic and musical talents were recognized at a young age, and in 1906 he entered the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. Anatole spoke of his training under the guidance of Klavdy Lebedev as being intense and full-time, except for short holidays spent visiting his family. His first two years of study focused solely on drawing, forming a solid basis for the paintings of historical buildings he completed later in life. His study was in the style of traditional, realistic art. Upon his graduation in 1914, Anatole was deemed to have mastered all media and was awarded the title “master artist”.
Immediately after graduation , Anatole joined his father and older brother serving in the Czar's Imperial Cavalry. The Bolshevik uprising and the assassination of the Czar in 1918 brought an abrupt end to his privileged life in Russia. His father and brother were killed in battle and his mother died in a Bolshevik prison. In the winter of 1918, Anatole and what remained of his cavalry unit left Russia on a four month trek through Siberia to Harbin, Manchuria, which was then a part of China.
Thirty Years in China
In the early 1920’s, Harbin was home to the largest population of Russians living outside of Russia –over 100,000 White Russian émigrés who had fled the Bolsheviks. Like thousands of his countrymen, Anatole arrived in Harbin with only the clothes on his back and a few family photos. He soon found work conducting and arranging music for a newly formed balalaika orchestra. In Anatole’s ten years in Harbin, he established himself as an artist in demand with his portraits and miniatures, and continued arranging and conducting for various orchestras.
Anatole left Harbin in 1930 in advance of the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and relocated to Tsingtao (now Qingdao), China. The years in Tsingtao were very productive for the artist. He became fluent in Mardarin, opened the Lotus Art Studio where he showed his work and taught both foreign and local students, spent months at a time in Peking (now Beijing), and traveled frequently to show his work in Shanghai. In the early 1940’s, Anatole moved again to Shanghai. There he continued to work as an artist and hold frequent showings of his work. He also taught art at the Russian High School for Girls and worked as the Business Manager for the Russian Hospital in Shanghai.
In 1949, shortly before the Chinese Communists’ arrival in Shanghai, all Russians living in China were advised to leave the country. In his position as Business Manager at the Russian Hospital in Shanghai, Anatole personally packed the hospital’s equipment, instruments and drugs for transport to the International Organization’s Refugee Camp in Tubabao, Philippines. Included in the packed crates were a few of Anatole’s personal possessions and some of his art created in his 30 years in China. In March 1949, Anatole became one of approximately 5,000 stateless refugees living in tents on the island of Tubabao. He was interned for eighteen months while awaiting approval of his application for entry into the United States
Final Years in United States
Anatole arrived in the San Francisco in November 1950. He was 53 years old. His sponsors, the newspaperman Carroll Alcott, among them, secured a small duplex for him in Hollywood, California and arranged for his first private showing in the United States in 1951. Efimoff’s collection of “Temples and Palaces of Old Peking” was exhibited several times in Los Angeles in the early 1950’s. In China, Efimoff had shown and sold his work regularly. In Los Angeles, he spurned commercial galleries and despite many requests, would allow his work to be shown only in Los Angeles where he could be in attendance. During his 32 years in Hollywood, Efimoff lived a modest life style and supported himself by teaching art.
Anatole Alexandrovich Efimoff, who never married, passed away on October 20, 1981, a month shy of his 84th birthday. He often told friends that his art was his life. It had sustained him through all of life’s upheavals and losses. Other than occasionally selling or gifting a painting to a friend, he had no desire to let go of any of it. Today, Efimoff's works can be found in private collections.