The Jewish Paris School
The Jewish Paris School was a group of Jewish artists, mostly young, that carried on an urban art life in Paris in 1918-1940. It was different from the French school with its local artists since in included immigrants from other countries as well. They arrived from Lithuania, Poland, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Bulgaria and more.
The Jewish Paris School
The Jewish Paris School was a group of Jewish artists, mostly young, that carried on an urban art life in Paris in 1918-1940. It was different from the French school with its local artists since in included immigrants from other countries as well. They arrived from Lithuania, Poland, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, England, USA and Israel.
In spite of the differences, Jewish artists made their mark on the plastic art in France. There might be a claim that Jewish artists weren’t able to create a unique Jewish style, however the quality of their brush struck was considered universal and enriched the culture world’s legacy and maybe this where their importance is expressed.
Most of the members of this school came from Eastern Europe to Paris, the capital of international art. Paris served as a source to development as well as difficulties that accompanied the artists in general and the Jewish artists specifically. The city gathered all art dreamers that wished to realize themselves in this field. Paris served as a basis for new and fresh perspective in the arts.
The Paris school was characterized by a free spirit that can stand against criticism that is given to everything that is new and crosses boundaries. Most of the Jewish artists from this school were graduates of art schools in Eastern or Central Europe, carried with pride the autodidact flag and turned to new artistic endeavors while leaving the learning foundations they were exposed to as a relatively abandoned tool box, and in so doing they created for themselves fresh thought lines.
Due to freedom of expression given to them in Paris, some critics claim to find lack of stability and backbone in the artistic expressions of those Jewish artists. “Revolutionary trends” were part of the artists’ creations, according to the critics, and although the diminishing of the anthropomorphic orphic and naturalistic art is related to great non-Jewish artists such as Klee, Picasso, Monk, Ensor, Van Gogh, and Gauguin, still there was some attribution of this diminishing to the Jewish artists.
In practice, it was possible to trace in Cubism and Modern painting an art that is originated in visionary abstract attempts based on internal spirit. Paris between two world wars brought to the world the new movement, “Neo-Humanism” in which most of the Jewish artists found a home to their yearning to the new classicism.
Paintings of Jewish artists from that time saw reality with objective eyes while other brought the abstract brush to the eyes of the observers. This way or the other, there is no doubt that Jewish painters made a painting creation that is filled with wisdom and balanced refinement that entered the art of our time. Great Jewish artists from the present century’s Paris school were Amedeo Modigliani, Jill Pascin, Chaim Soutine and Marc Chagall that joined the greatest painters of this school: Picasso, Braque and Matisse.
Jewish artists that belonged to this school worked between 1910 and 1940. Their creation was rooted on the painting tradition of Paris that originates in Cezanne and the Impressionists and later on the Fauvist movement that more than once embraced an Expressionist spirit that arrived from Central and Western Europe, and Cubist and Realist influences from the Paris school itself.
Despite of the uniqueness required in order to depict their life course and its impact on the creation of every Jewish artist from this school, still it can be claimed that their life histories have many similarities: spirited life’s naiveté in exile (Poland and Lithuania) that grew into passionate artistic brilliance (true for the immigration wave from Europe).
In the past decades, most of the painters from the Paris school found it preferable to work in groups, except from few individuals such as Modigliani, Soutine and Chagall who engaged in personal styled creation that characterizes each of them. The others tended to operate under a specific style or ideology that marked the group they belonged to.
In 1930, certain Jewish painters emerged, culture figures such as Oizen Berman and Benzion Rabinovitz from the Paris school, and objected to the new art such as Cubism, Dada and Surrealism. They were named the “Humanists” of Paris, and claimed that the human being deserves to be the center of painting and an art in itself.
Many artists from the Paris school, such as Pascin and Chagall, made some wonders with new graphic art that featured engravings, woodcuts, lithography and book decorations. Some of them specialized in this field – Rene Ben Shoshan, Sisile Reems, G. Johnny Frindlander and Abraham Carol.
Many artists from the Paris school, as Issyk (Odolf) Feder, Henri (Chaim) Epstein, were deported and murdered when France was occupied by the German from 1940 to 1944. A selection of their pieces was presented in an impressive exhibition in 1955 in Paris.
As mentioned, the Paris school received to its arms artistic legacy from all over the world, and its artists created styles and painting values. The group’s contribution began with expressionist art of young artists from Lithuania and Russia who wanted to bring their unique internal shades, and continued with artistic activity that was shown from 1945 on, when the immigration of artists from Eastern Europe started to decrease and an increased movement of Jewish artists towards Paris was observed from Israel, USA, few from North Africa and Turkey.
Artists from America and Israel were more reserved and intellectual and less emotionally spontaneous. Some of them contributed to abstract art but not due to emotional expression that important to the previous artists generation that came from Easter Europe. Eventually, the life events of Jewish artists from the Paris school were part of the influences that created the various pieces attributed to this school.
The number of Jewish painters that lived and worked in Paris from 1910 and onwards is higher than any other place in the world and all recorded art history. As long as Paris continues to receive artists from all over the world, Jewish artists included, the Paris school will continue to be universal in all art domains, and it will display the characteristics of the Jewish artists.