As a child, Andrey Nikolaevich Avinoff (1884-1949) enjoyed painting and collecting butterfly specimens, but at university he temporarily put these pursuits aside to earn a law degree at the University of Moscow. He accepted a position in the government of Nicholas II, and in 1911 he was appointed gentleman-in-waiting to the Czar. He emigrated in the United States in 1917. There, he worked as a commercial artist, designing artwork for Colgate, Palmolive, Underwood Typewriters, Pall Mall and Johns Manville Roofs among others. His work as an entomologist also led him to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. An assistant curator of entomology in 1924, he was promoted to director of the Museum in 1926, serving there for 19 years.
As a painter, he enjoyed working in a variety of styles, from the exact representation necessary for botanical illustrations to Cubism. He also designed and painted the famous Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh and illustrated a number of articles and books. He produced an extraordinary folio that is eerily prophetic in light of our modern cataclysms, illustrating an epic poem by George Golokhvastov called the The Fall of Atlantis, published in limited edition in 1938.
The paintings he produced toward the end of his life depict angelic hierarchies, in luminous layers of brilliant rays of light, and show that he was trying to visually explain spiritual and mystical insights. Avinoff had never married, and he was very discreet about his sexual life.