Friday, April 5, 2019

Remembering Pinchus Krémègne (28 July 1890 – 5 April 1981)

Pinchus Krémègne
Portrait of Pinchus Krémègne by Amadeo Modgliani, 1916. Kunstmeseum, Berne.
Pinchus Krémègne. Self-portrait.
Remembering Pinchus Krémègne (28 July 1890 – 5 April 1981)
by Samuel D. Gruber

Today is the anniversary of the death of Lithuania-born Jewish artist Pinchus Krémègne, an important member of the so-called School of Paris, and a close friend and associate of Chaim Soutine. Though less well-known today than his friends and rivals Soutine, Chagall, Kikoine, Modigliani (who painted his portrait) and others, Krémègne was long-lived and produced an impressive body of work. Most of his paintings are landscapes, townscapes, portraits and nudes - he shied away from social and political painting, and from controversial and conceptual work, and wedo not know of any overtly "Jewish" themes in his work - though there may be some lesser known works or in work he did in Israel in the early 1950s. Much of the latter part of his life was spent in Ceret, France, where he created many of his powerfully expressive - and messy - landscapes. Like his colleague Soutine, he loved the materiality of paint.

Pinchus Krémègne. Provence Landscape, circa 1916
Pincus Kremegne, Les Capucins a Céret.
Pincus Kremegne, Landscape.
This bio is from

"Pinchus Krémègne was the youngest child in a family of nine. His family was religious and humble, and originally came from the Vilnius region. His father produced objects inspired by Slav folklore. When he was nineteen, Pinchus enrolled in the School of Fine Arts in Vilnius, where he studied sculpture and met Soutine and Kikoïne.

Aware that he did not have a future in Russia, where there was much anti-Semitic persecution at the time, he left for Paris in 1912, arriving after a difficult clandestine departure at La Ruche, “this great Russian hive of activity in Passage Dantzig.” Soutine followed his advice and met him there in 1913. In 1914, Krémègne sculpted and exhibited three artworks at the Salon des Indépendants. In 1915, he gave up sculpture and turned to painting.

In Paris, he discovered the museums and galleries that exhibited works by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Cézanne and the Impressionists.

Pincus Kremegne, Portrait of a Woman ,c1925
Pincus Kremegne. Standing Nude, 1934

From 1916, he spent time in Montparnasse, where he met Kikoïne, André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, and Max Jacob. The art dealers Chéron, Zborowski and Paul Guillaume were his first collectors. In 1918, he discovered Céret, which inspired him, and he often stayed there. From 1920, Krémègne started to travel a lot; he went to Corsica (1923), Cagnes-sur-Mer (1928-1929), and Scandinavia, from where he brought many portraits. In 1923, he married Birgit Strömback with whom he later had a son.

In 1940, he took refuge in Turenne in the Corrèze in the Massif Central. He stayed at the house of a villager and helped to work in the fields. A gallery in Toulouse provided him with colors, which enabled him to continue to paint.

Following the Liberation, he returned to Paris and settled in a studio in rue François-Guibert. From 1949 to 1956, he traveled to Israel. However, it was in Cérét that he found the most inspiration. During the 1960s, Krémègne bought a plot in Cérét where he built his “studio-house” and he lived there until he died in 1981."

Pincus Kremegne. Portrait of unknown seated woman.
Pincus Kremegne. Still Life with Bread.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Happy Birthday Leonid Osipovich Pasternak (b. April 4 1862)!

Leonid Pasternak, Self-portrait, 1908
Leonid Pasternak. Self-portrait (before 1916)
Leonid Pasternak, After the Pogrom, 1904, drawing, whereabouts unknown, from R. Cohen Jewish Icons, fig 135
Leonid Pasternak, Musicians, ca. 1900, drawing, whereabouts unknown, from R, Cohen, Jewish Icons, fig. 137
Leonid Pasternak, Study, ca. 1891, drawing whereabouts unknown, from R. Cohen, Jewish Icons, fig. 136

Happy Birthday Leonid Osipovich Pasternak (b. April 4 1862)!
by Samuel Gruber

Today is the birthday of Leonid Pasternak, an accomplished artist (and father of writer Boris Pasternak). Pasternak, born to an Orthodox Jewish family in Odessa trained as doctor and lawyer before settling on painting and drawing, for which he displayed an early talent. He was was of the first Russians to label himself an impressionist, and was a popular portraitist especially of his creative contemporaries, but he also created works in the spirit of other East European Jewish "social" painters of the late 19th and early 20th century. He was friends with Tolstoy and was awarded a medal at the World Fair in Paris (1900) for his illustrations of Tolstoy's novel

Pasternak was elected a member of the Imperial Academy of Arts (1905), and also taught at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture. In 1921 he needed eye surgery, which was scheduled to be performed in Berlin. He traveled there with his wife and two daughters, Lydia and Josephine, leaving his sons Boris and Alexander in Russia. After the surgery he decided not to return to Russia, remaining in Berlin until 1938 when he took refuge from the Nazis in Great Britain. He died at Oxford on 31 May 1945.

Pasternak's art spans two world's. He comes out of the popular social and folk movement of pre-Revolution Russia, but he adopts a style that is more western and after 1917 his work would surely be seen as closer to the German Jewish Berlin-based Max Lieberman than to the new generation of Soviet Jewish artists ranging in style for Marc Chagall to El Lissitsky. For political and artisitc reasons one can see why he would have wanted to leave the Society Union for Germany in the 1920s. 

I have not read a biography or detailed study of Pasternak's life and art, but given the times he lived through and the people with whom he associated (just his list of portraits of famous writers and artists is impressive), I'm sure such a study would be fascinating and revealing.

Leonid Pasternak, Night Before the Exam, 1895; Musée d'Orsay, Paris.
Leonid Pasternak, Profile portrait of Leo Tolstoy, 1908.

Leonid Pasternak, Posthumous portrait of Rilke painted two years after his death, 1928.
Leonid Pasternak, Portrait of (Hebrew Poet) Shaul Tchernichovsky.
Leonid Pasternak. Apples.
Leonid Pasternak. The Moscow Kremlin in the March Sun,, 1917

Monday, April 1, 2019

Happy Birthday Aaron J. Goodleman (1890-1978)

Aaron Goodleman, The Drillers, 1933. Photo: Skirball Museum, Los Angeles.
Aaron J. Goodelman, Untitled (Man at Machine), 1930, cast and painted plaster, Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Aaron J. Goodelman, The Empty Plate, ca. 1930, plaster/cast and joined, Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Aaron J. Goodelman, Happy Landing, ca. 1930, Tennessee marble, Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Happy Birthday  Aaron J. Goodleman (1890-1978)
by Samuel D. Gruber

Today is the birthday of  Aaron J. Goodleman, and Russian-born American-Jewish sculptor not widely known, but whose work deserves more attention for its formal qualities, its craftsmanship, and its social and political message. Goodelman was also an accomplished illustrator and etcher, and a frequent lecturer and teacher.

He was born Ataki, Russia and studied at an art school in Odessa before immigrating to New York as a teenager in 1905. He studied at at the Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design, and in 1914, just before war broke out in Europe, he studied with Jean-Antoine Injalbert at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.

In the 1920s he worked as a machinist and during this time became a communist and exhibited at the John Reed Club in the early 1930s. During this time strove to express themes of social and economic justice in his art. Perhaps his best known work today is his sculpture The Drillers (1933), now in the collection of the Skirball Museum, Los Angeles.
"Sculpture is a language, and . . . if I talk I want people to know I am not just talking in the wind but I have something vital to state.”- Aaron Goodleman
He was a Yiddish speaker and remained active in Yiddish culture throughout his life, joining the Yiddish-speaking branch of the Communist Party, but also illustrating many Yiddish children's books, such as the 2-volume Khaver-pavers mayselakh (1925) which contains thirty-seven illustrated short stories for very young children, in relatively easy Yiddish. Goodleman also provided illustrations for the  children's journals Young Israel, Kinder Journal and Joseph Gaer's books The Burning Bush and The Unconquered.

He was art editor for YKUF (Yidisher Kultur Farband), a Communist-oriented Yiddish  cultural magazine.
Aaron Goodleman, Illustration for Khaver-pavers mayselakh (1925).

Aaron Goodleman, Illustration for Khaver-pavers mayselakh (1925).
Aaron Goodleman. Book cover.

Goodleman was a founding member of the Society of American Sculptors and for many years taught at the Jefferson School of Social Science. He taught at City College of New York in the 1960s.

After World War II, Goodelman created art commemorating  the Holocaust. I have not found images of these works, so if readers have information I would like to hear more.

Aaron J. Goodelman, Man with Wheelbarrow, ca. 1933, granite, Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Aaron J. Goodelman, Kultur, ca. 1940, carved, stained and waxed wood, and formed and welded metal, Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Aaron Goodleman. Torso, 1939-1940. Photo: online auction site. 
Aaron Goodleman. Untitled (Girl with Fountain), 1952. Photo: online auction site.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Happy Birthday Max Fleischer (1841-1905): Synagogue Architect of the Hapsburg Empire

 Max Fleischer, architect (1841-1905).
Vienna, Austria. Neudeggergasse Synagogue watercolor. Max Fleischer architect. Illustration  from: Das Osterreichische Judische Museum pl. 19.
Gliwice, Poland. Design for funerary building and cemetery. Max Fleischer, architect. Watercolor presentation perspective, 1902. From the collection of the Jewish Museum Vienna.
Happy Birthday Max Fleischer (1841-1905): Synagogue Architect of the Hapsburg Empire
by Samuel D. Gruber

Today is the birthday of prolific Viennese synagogue architect Max Fleischer who was a master of historic styles and helped re-integrate Gothic design into Jewish religious and institutional architecture in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was highly successful in his lifetime as a professional land a community leader. He was a highly trained, experienced, and well organized architect - and a practicing Jew. Thus, he  was an ideal candidate to take on many official Jewish community projects in the Strauss-Hungarian Empire. But was Fleischer was artistically cautious and for the most part a believer in the architectural - and cultural - status quo. His works were prominent and functional but innovative only in their inherent conservatism; not in either their overall plan nor in the intricacies of their designs.

Few of Fleischer’s Jewish commissions survive. The former synagogue of Břeclav, Czech Republic (1888) may have been rebuilt by Fleischer in 1888. It was adapted in 1992 into a municipal museum and art gallery and his funerary building at the cemetery in Gleiwitz (now Gliwice, Poland), has recently been restored. It's Romanesque style is not typical of Fleischer's other synagogue designs.

Břeclav, Czech Republic. Former synagogue. Built in 1868, it was rebuilt in 1888, possibly by Max Fleischer. It was adapted in 1992 into a municipal museum and art gallery, and then restored and reopened in 2000. Photo: Wikimedia.
Fleischer is mostly left out histories of synagogue architecture in part because of his embrace of German Gothic design, but also because his building have been destroyed and their grandeur is hard to imagine from line drawings and murky photos. A few presentation watercolors suggest the appeal of his style. Now, with the restoration of the Gliwice Funerary Building, however, there is a display about Fleischer and also the publication last year of small book (in Polish) about the architect and his work (Max Fleischer i jego dzieło. Historia żydowskiego cmentarza i domu przedpogrzebowego w Gliwicach, ISBN 978-83-89856-97-5).

The Gliwice funerary building, opened on November 15, 1903, was one of Fleischer last major works. It consists of three parts: a central prayer hall, which led directly into the cemetery, the mortuary, where the bodies were prepared for burial; and an apartment for the cemetery custodians.  During World War II the building was used as a military warehouse and thus survived. After the war it was returned to the tiny Jewish community of Gliwice, but over time the building fell into ruin. In 2003 It was listed as a national monument, and 2007 the Jewish Community gave the building to the City of Gliwice which in 2012 began to restore the building and to create the Upper Silesian Jews House of Remembrance, a branch for the Museum of Gliwice.

Gliwice, Poland. Funerary building after restoration. Max Fleischer, architect, 1901-03. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018.
Gliwice, Poland. Funerary building after restoration. Max Fleischer, architect, 1901-03. Photo: Samuel Gruber 2018
Fleischer was born on March 29, 1841 in Prossnitz , Moravia, at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now Prostějov in the Czech Republic. He studied at the Technical University of Vienna (1859-63) and at the Academy of Fine Arts (1863-1866). In 1868 he was hired by architect Friedrich von Schmidt, the master builder of St. Stephen’s church and of the neo-gothic Vienna City Hall on the Ringstrasse. Fleischer worked as an associate of von Schmidt  for twenty years, during which time he learned about the organization of big public works and became expert in the Gothic style, both lessons that were useful alter in many of his big synagogue projects. For his work on the City Hall is was recognized by the Emperor, and a portrait bust was included on the building entrance. Already while working with Schmidt he was recognized by the Jewish community and took on several synagogue commissions.

 Max Fleischer portrait on Vienna City Hall. Photo: Wikimedia.
Fleischer became an independent architect in 1887, and soon after began to design synagogues in Vienna, eventually completing the Schmalzhofgasse Synagogue (1883-84), Muellnergasse Synagogue (1889(, and the Neudeggergasse Synagogue (1903). He was also a frequent lecturer on architecture and wrote articles about the design of synagogues.

Vienna, Austria. Synagogue at Schmalzhofgasse 3. Max Fleischer, architect, 1883-84. Photo: from Genee, Syn in Osterreich, fig. 62.
Vienna, Austria. Neudeggergasse Synagogue in 1935. Max Fleischer, architect, 1883-84. Photo: from Genee, Syn in Osterreich, fig. 66.
He also designed synagogues in Budweis (1888) and Pilgram (now České Budějovice and Pelhřimov in the Czech Republic) in style. These were all neo-Gothic in style, which Fleischer preferred as more appropriate to German cultural traditions than the still-popular Moorish style. But like most historicist architects of his time, he was eclectic – and also designed synagogues in others styles in Lundenburg (now Břeclav in the Czech Republic), Krems an der Donau and Nikolsburg (now Mikulov in the Czech Republic) in other styles.
All but the synagogue of Břeclav have been destroyed, many on Kristallnacht, on November. 9-10, 1938).

České Budějovice, Czech Republic (formerly Budweis). Synagogue interior, watercolor by architect Max Fleischer. Image from Das Osterreichische Judische Museum pl. 18.
České Budějovice, Czech Republic (formerly Budweis). Synagogue. Max Fleischer, architect (1868?).
České Budějovice, Czech Republic (formerly Budweis). Synagogue. Max Fleischer, architect (1868?). The Germans blew up the synagogue on June 5, 1942.
Fleischer presented the original design for the Great Synagogue of Pilsen (Plzen, Czech Republic), for which he proposed a Gothic design with twin 65-meter towers and large buttresses. The ground plan was established, and the cornerstone laid in 1888, but work stopped when city councilors rejected the plan fearing the new large building would compete with the nearby St. Bartholomew Cathedral.  In 1891 a revised and smaller design was prepared by Emmanuel Klotz.

Fleischer is an active member of the Jewish community of Vienna and he also designed many of the funerary monuments in the Jewish section of Vienna’s Central Cemetery including those for the Guttmann Brothers, who were wealthy  coal merchants, and chairman of the Jewish community, and for the doctor and politician Adolf Fischhof, Hazzan Salomon Sulzer, banker Eduard Wiener von Welten, and many others  Fleischer is buried in the same cemetery, too, and his grave is marked by a brick Gothic structure more modest than many he designed for his rich clients.

He also designed villas, housing buildings and department stores.

Fleischer died on December 8, 1905 at the age of 64. In addition to his portrait on City Hall, a commemorative plaque at 64 Neustiftgasse in the 7th district of Vienna is unveiled in Fleischer’s memory on November 20, 2008.