Exodus –
L' École de Paris: The Modernist Diaspora at Bonhams London

London – An exodus of Jewish artists from Eastern Europe to Paris during the turn of the century gave rise to a flourishing of artistic activity in the city. After its inaugural edition last year, L' École de Paris: A Modernist Diaspora will return to Bonhams on Tuesday 28 June at New Bond Street. Highlights include Barque sur le Rivage by Moïse Kisling (Polish/French, 1891-1953) estimated at £20,000 - 30,000; Woodcutters by Serge Férat, (1881-1958) with an estimate of £40,000-60,000 and Fantasy by the Ukrainian/French painter Anna Staritsky (1908-1981) estimated at £2,000-3,000.

Daria Khristova, Head of Sale, comments, "L' École de Paris pioneered the experimental approaches to style and technique that defined modernism, and its key players - Jean Pougny, Moïse Kisling, Henri Epstein, Roman Kramsztyk, Pinchus Krémègne and Maurice Blond - are all represented in the upcoming sale. These artists, visionaries of their day, are only now receiving the acknowledgement proportional to their influence."

Moïse Kisling produced one of the boldest pieces offered, the arresting seascape Barque sur le rivage. Kisling left Poland for Paris in 1910, heading for the cultural epicentre that was Montparnasse. He duly befriended and worked alongside such established artists as Picasso, Juan Gris, Max Jacob and Manolo.

Fellow expatriate Henri Epstein (Polish, 1891-1944) joins Kisling among the sale's leading artists. River landscape, which carries an estimate of £8,000 - 10,000, is a novel take on a romantic pastoral scene, the impressionistic use of colour and brushstroke mimicking the dappling of light through abundant foliage and reflections on the water.

A name often mentioned in association with L' École de Paris is Jacques Spreiregen (1894-1982). Although best known for founding the headwear manufacturer Kangol, official supplier to the British Army, his patronage of the community of Jewish artists in Paris ensured that many generational talents could reach their potential. Their stories ran parallel to his own, as a Jewish refugee from the brutal Tsarist regime in Poland. His respect for the 20th-century European masters was evident in his impressive collection, where Cézanne, Monet, Bonnard and others received recognition. Despite starting his business in England, his relationship with artists in the French capital remained strong, procuring works directly from the studios in which they were conceived. Several of his acquisitions are present in the sale, such as Two Village Scenes by Maurice Blond (Polish, 1899 - 1974), estimate £3,000 - 5,000, and Salle de billard by Jean Pougny (French, 1894 - 1956), estimate £5,000 - 7,000.

This was not a field of innovation reserved for men, and the diversity of L' École de Paris, which championed the progressive and the avant-garde, underscores the sale. Women artists took advantage of the liberal atmosphere of Paris to augment their education and practice art freely. Sonia Lewitska (Polish/French, 1874-1937), for example, was one of the earliest and most active participants. The Montmartre home she shared with her husband, Cubist Jean Marchand (1883-1940), doubled as a salon where well-known bohemians such as Raoul Dufy, André Dunoyer de Segonzac, André Lhote, and Henriette Tirman. Her painting Garden has an estimate of £8,000 - 10,000. Major lot Saint Luke the Evangelist, which has an estimate of £20,000 - 30,000, is by Maria Vorobieff (Russian, 1892-1984), known as Marevna, the Moscow-born lover of Diego Rivera.

Other women artists featured are:

Vera Landchevsky (Russian/Ukrainian/French, 1897-1960), Portrait of a Young Woman. Estimate £1,000 - 2,000.

Anna Staritsky (Ukranian/French, 1908-1981), Fantasy. Estimate £2,000 - 3,000.

Marie Vassilieff (Russian, 1884-1957), Portrait of a Man. Estimate £8,000 - 10,000.

Julia Worswick (British, 1903-1976), Portrait. Estimate £600 - 800.

9 June 2022

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