The‌ ‌Jewish‌ ‌Artists‌ ‌&‌ ‌Their‌ ‌Arts‌ ‌That‌ ‌Found‌ ‌Freedom‌ ‌in‌ ‌Paris‌

Art speaks where words are unable to explain – Threadless Artist Mathiole

Amedeo Modigliani. Chaim Soutine, Marc Chagall were some of the few Jewish artists who found salvation in the French capital. Strictly speaking, the title “School of Paris” does not indicate an artistic movement but the historic movement was in the early 19th century that drove artists from all over the world- most of them Jewish, to Paris. They were incapable of openly implementing their artistic disciplines in their home countries, although they shared the same vision, finally accepted modernity and took action by becoming free in abandoning their home countries to fulfill their dreams of becoming full-fledged artists. Let’s learn about how they achieved their dreams:

Amedeo Modigliani:

It all started when 22-year-old Italian Jewish artist Amedeo Modigliani arrived in Paris in 1906, he had compromised health. He had put up with childhood bouts of bronchitis, nearly died because of typhoid at 11, and was confirmed with tuberculosis at 16. In the initial days in Paris, which was experiencing widespread anti-Semitism and the overflow of foreign emigrants, he established a bond with a young French physician and also an art lover, Paul Alexandre. Their bond grew stronger, through daily meetups from 1907 to the beginning of World War I in 1914. Although his options are limited Alexandre became his financier and avid supporter of his art, compelling the other artists not to destroy Amedeo’s 450 drawings. 

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When the war broke out, Alexandre entered the French medical contingent, and Amedeo succumbed to tuberculosis in 1920. These two never met after 1914. Later during the years, Alexandre became overprotective about Amedeo’s drawings, limiting both photocopying and knowledgeable access. He planned to use the collection to start the importance of the artist’s past work. But later it was Alexandre’s son Noel who printed the complete collection with the name “The Unknown Modigliani”.

Modigliani believed that when in Paris, he would feel at home as he spoke fluent French language and was familiar with French Literature and poetry. But his belief was short-lived as he struggled financially and also suffered from attacks of tuberculosis and so increased his sense of alienation. 

Recently New York City’s Jewish Museum has organized an exhibition promoting over 100 of the early drawings besides selected sculptures and paintings by the artist. 

Modigliani’s former works disclose his Modernist grabs of contrast, as well as his knowledge beyond national and cultural boundaries. 

Chaim Soutine:

Chaim Soutine was the second-youngest son of 11 children, born to a tailor in Smilavichy, a Jewish Shtetl in present Belarus. That region is noted for violence, and his childhood was scary as he saw thousands of Jews being murdered. 

Soutine’s parents encouraged his artistic skills, but the Shtetl was against this idea. Once Soutine painted the leader of the village, but when his son came to know about it, he beat Soutine.  

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His mother borrowed money and sent him out of the town to learn to tailor. When he was 20, he moved to Paris. There other Jewish Emigrant painters including Amedeo Modigliani guided him and got inspiration from Rembrandt, Goya, Chardin, and Courbet. 

His theme was an open carcass and fragile feathers; glint sprat, and a croaking lamb. Every painting expresses the space between life and death, peace and tendency. 

Initially, he faced bias for his religion in Paris. Although he lived in Montparnasse, he preferred the wilderness of the Parisian countryside, and so moved there. 

He was a complex character, a loner who didn’t have friends, that’s how he lived his life between alienation and seclusion. 

His 32 paintings of hanging birds, beef carcasses, and uncooked fish are considered amid the artist’s greatest achievements as he pushed the limits of traditional hush life painting. 

In course of time, Soutine influenced the next generation of artists, including Francis Bacon, William De Kooning, Damien Hirst, and Cecily Brown.

Marc Chagall:

Marc Chagall or Moishe Shagal was a Russian-French artist of Belarusian Jewish origin. He connected with many important artistic styles and created works in a vast range of artistic formats, as well as painting, drawings, book illustrations, and many more. 

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Chagall was the eldest of nine children, in a Lithuanian Jewish Hasidic family in Liozna, which was a part of the Russian Empire in 1887. His father was a poor man who worked under a herring merchant and his mother ran a small shop from home. Basically, he struggled during his early days. 

During those days under the Russian Empire, Jewish children could not educate in any schools or universities. It restricted them to wander, and so Chagall got his early education in a local Jewish school and later found out his interest in painting and confided with his mother and joined a local studio Yehuda Pen. But after a few days, Chagall found out that this studio does not hold his desires, so he moved out. 

Chagall moved out with a fake passport as those were the rules for Jews those days and enrolled in the esteemed art school for 2 years. 

In 1910, he moved to Paris to improve his artistic style and so enrolled at Academie de la Palette. His skills developed not only in drawing but also in stained glass windows, murals, theatre sets, costumes, tapestries, ceramic, and sculptures. 

They described him as an explorer of modern art and one of the greatest metaphorical painters and innovated optical language that documented the thrill and dread of the twentieth century. 

His canvases speak about the victory of modernism, the development in the art to a proclamation of the inner self that is one of the last centuries’ gesture inheritances. After undergoing world wars, revolutions, and cultural persecution, he never went out of reality but put all his pain and worries in painting as therapy without deviating from the mainstream. 

To conclude, the divergence of this distinctive artistic walk marked the transformation towards a fresh Jewish identity, that is no longer entirely religious and created by a language, tradition, and an experience.

Although it was the same demand to free themselves from the structure of Jewish life, grow artistically, and earn a title for themselves in Paris. After the initial cheerfulness diminished, all these artists shared the same emotional rejection of practice and decorum and the determination to forge the singular paths that their reputation as an independent creator can finally give them.

I, Priya Nagarajan, is a past Assistant Professor, mentor, tutor, counselor. Writing has always been a passion of mine and so changed my path to my passion. I believe language is the best way to convey your thoughts and dreams to get the results. I believe it takes a personal approach to reach individual success. I write with a flair for creativity and a keen eye for the professional.

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