5207710134 f648539f40 o Moise Kisling ★(1891 — 1953)
Painter, graphic artist

Born in Craców, Poland

In 1907 enrolled in the School of Fine Arts,

where he studied under J. Pankiewicz.

In 1910 moved to Paris.

From 1913 contributed to exhibitions.

In 1914-5, together with the Foreign Legion,

fought in the First World War.

In 1941-5 lived in New York.

Died in Sanary-sur-Mer, France.


Detailed Biography

Moise Kisling was born into a Jewish family on January 22, 1891, in Craców, Austria-Hungary (now Poland).

Kisling began to draw in early childhood and at 15 enrolled in the Craców Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied under Prof. Józef Pankiewicz. Pankiewicz was a successful Polish artist who traveled a lot through Europe, lived in Paris and was influenced by the major artistic trends of his time, including Impressionism, Symbolism and subsequently Cubism and Post-Impressionism. Seeing that the young artist had a tremendous potential, Pankiewicz found it easy to persuade Kisling that it could be developed only in the creative atmosphere of Paris, then a center of attraction for artists of different countries.

In the 1890s artists coming to Paris began to settle in Le Bateau Lavoir, a commune in the Montmartre area where small studios were rented. It became a haven for Fauvists and Cubists. Starting from the 1900s André Derain, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Max Jacob, Juan Gris, Kees van Dongen and other artists lived there.

Simultaneously, the inflow of Jewish immigrant artists from Central and especially Eastern Europe was on the rise. They sought to escape the old cultural tradition, which forbade any representation of man. Leopold Gottlieb and Eugeniusz (Eugene) Zak came from Poland in 1904, the Bulgarian artist Jules Pascin from Germany in 1905, Amedeo Modigliani from Italy in 1906, Marc Chagall from Russia in 1911, Mikhail Kikoine, Pinchus Kremegne and other artists hailing from Belorussia came from Lithuania that same year, and Chaim Soutine followed suit in 1913. That same year Tsuguharu Foujita came to Paris.

Such was the milieu in which Moise Kisling found himself when he came to Paris in 1910 with a letter of recommendation from Józef Pankiewicz to his friend Sholom Ash, a well-known Jewish writer who managed to help the young artist. He found a Russian patron for him, who provided a year-long financial support to the young genius. Kisling thus got a monthly stipend of 150 francs.

East European émigré artists began to settle in the former Bordeaux wine rotunda of the Great Exposition of 1900, which had been moved to the southwestern environ of Paris. Designed by Gustave Eiffel, this building got the name of La Ruche (Beehive) for the shape of its windows. Living conditions in the two communes left much to be desired, however, there was no risk of being evicted for non-payment while a free plate of soup was guarantied at artist Marie Vassilieff’s “cantine”. What was more, the artists communicated with each other, staged joined shows and discussed the new artistic idiom. Their creative quests moved along the lines discovered by Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.
Céret in the Pyrenees, where Henri Matisse and André Derain worked in 1905 and where Fauvism originated, was a well-known artistic center outside Paris. Matisse continued working there from time to time between 1906 and 1914 and invited his friends to join him. For thirty years many artists and sculptors came to work in that town, producing outstanding works of art. In 1950 a wonderful Museum of Modern Art opened in Céret. Chaim Soutine immortalized the local townscape in his piece of genius, View of Céret, the Old Town, 1919, which is exhibited at the museum.

In the summer of 1911 Picasso, together with Braque, went to Céret to work on the analytical theory of Cubism. He rented the first floor of a huge mansion with a park and invited his friends to come and work in his spacious studio. According to André Salmon, Juan Gris, Auguste Herbin and Max Jacob came to that “Mecca of Cubism”. The young Moise Kisling too went there to stay for about a year. He largely associated with Picasso’s sculptor friend Manolo Hugué, who had a house in Céret.

Upon his return Kisling decided to settle in Montparnasse. He rented a studio at 3 Rue Joseph Bara, where he lived for 27 years. Jules Pascin and Amedeo Modigliani, who had moved from Le Bateau Lavoir, lived nearby. Montparnasse had no residence of the type of La Ruche or Le Bateau Lavoir, and artists rented studios in different houses on different streets. That was why artistic life seethed in cafes and on the boulevards.

According to a contemporary, Kisling was “the axis around which everything rotated at Montmartre”. His artistry manifested itself in everything. Kisling’s duel with his comrade, Polish artist Gottlieb, of course, over a matter of honor, on June 12, 1914, is widely known. The Mexican artist Diego Rivera was Gottlieb’s second. The duel took place on the outskirts of Paris in the presence of a crowd of people, including reporters. It did not stop until first blood had been drawn: both duelists were lightly wounded. Many newspapers and magazines published photographs and reports of the duel.

Everything changed after the First World War had broken out. French artists were mobilized while their émigré friends volunteered for the front, went back home or departed to neutral countries. Those who stayed on in Paris moved from Montmartre to Montparnasse.

Moise Kinsling enrolled in the Foreign Legion and volunteered for the front. On May 11, 1915, he was gravely wounded in the Battle of the Somme. For bravery shown on the battlefield Moise Kisling was granted French citizenship. The war was over for him.

Art life was surprisingly brisk in the middle of the war. Modigliani was not called up for health reasons, Picasso stayed on at Montparnasse, and Foujita, who had gone to England and then to Spain, returned to Paris, together with other émigré artists. Like Soutine, they all contributed to the labor front efforts. Exhibitions were staged at cafes, fashionable boutiques and studios. In November 1916 they managed to organize an exhibition of French artists in Oslo – 94 paintings were to be dispatched from Rouen on a small ship. Kisling took an active part in those exhibitions.

In the spring of 1916 Kisling met Renée Gros, a student of the Académie Ranson. On August 12, 1917, their wedding took place, with the whole of Montparnasse celebrating it for three days, moving from a café to a brothel and then on to Kisling’s studio, where the carousing company danced their heads off to the then fashionable gramophone.

In addition to exhibitions, the art market too gained momentum in the postwar years. Kisling’s exhibition at the Galérie Druet in November 1919 was a great success. In 1923 the well-known American collector Albert Barnes came to Paris and spoke highly of the originality of Montparnasse artists. He was especially impressed by the works of Soutine. He took back home a great many pictures, including those of Kisling. Artists thus gained recognition from a major collector of French paintings, who founded a museum at the educational Barnes Foundation.

Kisling emerged as a famous artist who sold well. He always worked hard. Unlike other artists, he had a strictly regulated working day, which began at 9 o’clock in the morning when models came to sit, had a break for lunch, which he had together with his friends at La Rotonde, Le Dôme or La Coupole, then back to work and more meetings with friends, now at dinner in the evening. Famous model Kiki sat for some of his pictures. She found it hard to stick to Kisling’s strict routine and was invariably excused – after all, theirs were friendly rather than business relations.

In general, friends loved Kisling, who knew the meaning of friendship and how to help in time of need. Kisling was a close friend of Modigliani, and it was he who arranged the funeral of Modigliani, who died on January 24, 1920, of tubercular meningitis. With Conrad Moricand’s help Kisling made Modi’s death mask. When Pascin had not been seen for several days, and his lover Lucy Krogh decided to have his studio opened, she was accompanied by her friend Charlotte Gardelle, a locksmith, and, to be sure, Kisling, who took his friend off the rope. That happened on June 5, 1930.

Fancy-dress balls came into vogue in the postwar period. The entrance fee of 15 francs per person helped raise funds for the needy artists. Kisling often helped the ball organizers and even was advertized as the head bartender of the evening. When he became wealthy, he arranged Wednesday lunches at his studio, to which he invited artists, writers, actors, musicians, politicians and lawyers.

At the outbreak of the Second World War Kisling again volunteered for the front. France resisted Nazi Germany for six weeks, and when it surrendered Polish Jew Kisling and his family had to leave their second homeland. He went to the USA. His exhibitions were a success in New York and Washington. He did portraits and had many commissions. Kisling settled in California and stayed there until 1946.

kisling Moise Kisling ★

After the war Kisling returned to Sanary-sur-Mer in Provence (France), which he had first visited way back in 1913. From that year on he always came to work there. In the 1920s Renée regularly visited Sanary-sur-Mer with their sons, Guy and Jean, and in 1932 the Kislings built there a wonderful house, “La Baie”, with a studio overlooking the Bay of Bandol. Renée had designed the house, which became a true home for the family.

Moise Kisling died there on April 29, 1953. The street he lived on has been named after him. His eldest son Guy still lives in their family house. The younger son, Jean, lives in Paris. He devoted his life to studying his father’s works: he published a catalogue raisonné and wrote the biography of Moise Kisling.

The biggest collection of Kisling’s pictures is at the Musée du Petit Palais in Geneva.




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Moïse Kisling

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Moïse Kisling

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