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"Paris in New York: French Jewish Artists in Private Collections"
2000-03-05 until 2000-06-25
Jewish Museum
New York, NY, USA United States of America

In the first decades of the twentieth century, Jewish artists, predominantly from Eastern Europe, were among the many foreigners attracted to Paris to pursue careers as professional artists. They have since been called the Circle of Montparnasse, referring to the new neighborhood of cafés and wide boulevards in which they settled. Some of the best known of this group are presented in this exhibition. From about 1907 to shortly after World War I, these painters and sculptors experimented with the stylistic innovations of the key avant-garde figures of the period, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. They were also influenced by the Post-Impressionists–Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh, and Paul Cézanne, whose works were widely exhibited in Paris at the time.

The works in this exhibition are from private collections, supplemented with examples from The Jewish Museum’s collection. The collectors of these works share both an admiration for their beauty and an abiding curiosity about the lives of these artists.

In the first section of the exhibition are works by Marc Chagall, Sonia Delaunay, Amedeo Modigliani, Elie Nadelman, Jules Pascin, and Max Weber, all of whom arrived in Paris by 1910. During World War I many of the Jewish artists left Paris, including Nadelman, who settled in New York. Both Mané-Katz , who had arrived in 1913, and Chagall went to Russia, their homeland, but were back in Paris by the 1920s. Others in this exhibition, like Moďse Kisling, served in the French Army. Those who returned found Paris a place of prosperity, but also discovered an increasingly conservative political, social, and artistic atmosphere. Nevertheless, over the course of the decade, a network of dealers, collectors, and critics would advance the popularity and commercial success of many of these artists, including, in the last two galleries, Kisling, Jacques Lipchitz, Louis Marcoussis, Chana Orloff, and Chaim Soutine. Despite their foreignness, the painterly, coloristic works and expressionistic styles that many of this group developed soon came to define French modernist painting between the wars.

The Jewish artists of the School of Paris came from various backgrounds, rich and poor, orthodox and liberal. They varied in artistic style, and, with the exception of Marc Chagall and Mané-Katz, didn’t paint Jewish themes. But modernist influences did not negate their personal heritage. Most thought of themselves as both artists and Jews. They met at cafés and in studios. A great camaraderie grew among these artists and the vibrant group of poets, critics, dealers, and collectors who converged in Montparnasse.

Chagall explained why he came to Paris: I aspired to see with my own eyes what I had heard of from so far away: this revolution of the eye, this rotation of colors, which spontaneously and astutely merge with one another in a flow of conceived lines. That could not be seen in my town. The sun of Art then shone only on Paris.


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