Jewish artists of L'Ecole de Paris offered at Bonhams

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Jewish artists of L'Ecole de Paris offered at Bonhams
Nude by Georges Kars. Estimate: £10,000-15,000. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- Paris in the first decades of the 20th century was the undisputed international capital of art. Painters and sculptors, pursuing dreams of greatness and eager to experience the zeitgeist, flocked there from all over Europe and America. Among them was Polish-born Moïse Kisling (1891-1953), one of many Jewish émigré artists who made Paris their home at this time. Kisling’s Nature morte au pichet from 1917 – a rare and early Cubist still life by the artist – leads L’ Ecole de Paris 1905-1939: The Jewish Artists sale at Bonhams London on Wednesday 3 March 2021. The work is estimated at £30,000-35,000.

The collection has been put together by the Nieszawer & Princ family, whose book Artistes Juifs de l’Ecole de Paris 1905-1939 (2015) is the definitive work on Jewish artists in Paris during this period. Nadine Nieszawer said: “From the turn of the 20th century to the outbreak of World War II, Paris was a magnet for artists. This sale focuses on the impact of one group: the Jewish painters who made such a significant and varied contribution to what is known as the School of Paris. Collecting these wonderful works has been a great privilege and a never-ending source of fascination.”

Kisling was born in 1891 in Crakow, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A talented artist from childhood, he moved to Paris in 1910 when he was 19, living and working in Montparnasse and Montmartre. Firmly established at the heart of the art scene – he numbered Picasso and Modigliani among his friends – Kisling enjoyed much success during his lifetime. After serving in the French Army at the outbreak of World War II (as he had during the First World War) he moved to the USA, living in Southern California next door to the English novelist Aldous Huxley. He returned to France in 1946. Kisling’s work is held by many major institutions, including the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Israel Museum.

Other highlights include:

• La Cavalière by Léon Indenbaum (Russian, 1890-1981). Painted in around 1917, this rare oak panel is the fifth of the five steps that formed a staircase in a French castle. Before the stock market crash of 1929, Indenbaum enjoyed the patronage of many influential figures including the fashion designers Jacques Doucet and Paul Poiret, the decorator Marcel Coard and the banker brothers Georges and Marcel Bernard. Indenbaum was notoriously private; he shunned publicity and believed that an artist’s work should speak for itself. He stayed in hiding in France during the war but many of his works were lost or destroyed. The panel is estimated at £30,000-35,000.

• Two typical works, Les Provinciales and La Figurante du Palace (1927), by the Bulgarian artist Jules Pascin (1885-1930), who moved to Paris in 1905. In contrast to Indenbaum, Pascin was a dedicated partygoer – he was known as the Prince of Montparnasse and counted Ernest Hemingway among his drinking companions – but he nevertheless took his artistic ambitions extremely seriously. Les Provinciales dates from the beginning of his lifelong and tortured love affair with Lucy Krohg in his early Parisian years. Pascin, who was a man of deep passions, divided his time between Lucy and his wife Hermine David, and this painting shows the sensuality and power of his nature and his art. The work has an estimate of £15,000-18,000. La Figurante du Palace, which has an estimate of £18,000-22,000, was executed in 1927 when he was living on the Boulevard de Clichy. This period of Pascin’s oeuvre is known as ''nacré'' after the pearly sheen that characterised his painting during this time. He struggled with alcoholism and depression and committed suicide in June 1930, the evening before the opening of a one-man show of his work. His funeral was attended by thousands of mourners.

• Nude by the Czech painter Georges Kars (1882-1945) Kars – born Karpeles – arrived in Paris in 1908. Nude shows the influence of Suzanne Valadon with whom he struck up a close friendship. Famous for his level-headedness in a world of excess, Kars had a wide circle of friends including Chagall, Apollinaire and Max Jacob as well as Jules Pascin. He left France for Switzerland in 1942 and committed suicide in Geneva in February 1945. Estimate: £10,000-15,000.

• Self-portrait as a Cowboy by the Ukrainian artist Samuel Granowsky (1889-1942). Granowsky, who adopted the persona of the Cowboy of Montparnasse after he was cast as an extra in a movie, was known, along with his girlfriend, the model Aicha, for his eccentric behaviour. After the fall of France, Granowsky decided to stay in Paris but was arrested in July 1942 and sent to Auschwitz where he was murdered.
• Two monumental paintings by Simon Mondzain (1887/88-1979). Polish by birth, Mondzain settled in Paris in 1910 but from 1925 he divided his time between France and Algeria, where he spent the war years with Albert Marquet and André Gide, only settling permanently in Paris after Algerian independence in 1962. The two paintings in the sale depict biblical subjects. Accueil à l’inconnu was painted in 1932 and is estimated at £10,000-15,000; L’Offrande dates from 1925/6 and has an estimate of £9,000-11,000.

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