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Monday, May 9, 2016

Ossip Zadkine

Destroyed City, Rotterdam, Ossip Zadkine, his most famous piece
Very often, painting and sculpture go together. There are probably very few painters who haven't, at one time or another, created in three dimensions. The reverse would likely apply to most, if not all, sculptors, their having painted some. It's been my experience that painters who sculpt are seldom outstanding sculptors (Picasso being the exception to the rule). And, by the same toke, sculptors who paint are seldom very good at it (Michelangelo being the exception to that rule). In fact, very few painters ever went near a chunk of marble with a chisel until Picasso showed us one could be a sculptor without getting marble dust in our hair (or sawdust, as the case may be). It was only with the popularization of the additive form of sculpture as applied to Cubism and later Abstract Expressionism, that sculpture became popular art medium available to all. Until then, carving equaled sculpture which were virtually synonymous with naturalism. Actually, that's not entirely true. Take Ossip Zadkine, for instance.
At the Water's Edge, 1932, Ossip Zadkine
Three Figure Sculpture, Ossip Zadkine
Ossip Zadkine was a Russian-born artist who lived and worked most of this life in France. He was born in 1890, which would make him a near contemporary of Picasso (born in 1881). Safe to say he was no Picasso, but then, neither was anyone else (other than Picasso, that is). Zadkine grew up in London and studied art in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (for maybe six months). It would be more accurate, figuratively speaking, to say he studied under Picasso. One look at his early paintings would confirm that beyond doubt. However, when it came to sculpture, Zadkine never picked up a hammer, nails, or glue bottle in his whole life. He was a sculptor in the Michelangelo sense of the word, though he was no Michelangelo, either. It would be more accurate to suggest that he was influenced by Constantin Brancusi than any other sculptor. In fact, "influenced" might be putting it too mildly.

Ossip Zadkine, Russian in name only.
The Human House, 1963, Ossip Zadkine,
In 1921 Zadkine became a French citizen. He served as a medic in the French Army during World War I, and was wounded in action. He spent World War II in the US. His best-known work is probably the sculpture The Destroyed City (top) from 1951-53. It represents a man without a heart, a memorial to the destruction of the center of Rotterdam in 1940 by the German Luftwaffe. In 1920, Zadkine married Valentine Prax, an Algerian-born painter of Sicilian, French, and Catalan descent. They had no children. Ossip Zadkine, did however, have a son, born in 1960, as the result an affair with a Danish woman. Zadkine died in Paris in 1967 at the age of 77 having undergone abdominal surgery.

A sampling of Zadkine's sculpture during the final twenty years of his life.
There is a Museum dedicated to Ossip Zadkine in the village of Les Arques in the Midi-Pyrénées region (southwestern France). Zadkine lived in Les Arques for a number of years, and while there, carved an enormous Christ on the Cross and a Pieta today featured in the 12th-century church which stands opposite the museum (below).

Ossip Zadkine Museum, Les Arques, France
Sculpture of Vincent van Gogh, Ossip Zadkine,
(not a particularly good likeness).

Lovers, 1959, Ossip Zadkine


1 comment:

  1. The middle of this post is un-viewable?
    Technical difficulty?