Ossip Zadkine

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Biography of Ossip Zadkine ( 1890-1967 )

Born in Russia, Ossip Zadkine grew up between Smolensk and the banks of the Duina. As a curious child, he started drawing very young and began to practice clay at 12. His parents sent him to North England at the age of 15, where he settled to one of his distant relation who has engaged him in the local fine art school. In 1906, Ossip Zadkine joined a friend in London and entered the Regent street Plytechnicum where he followed evening training. On every Sunday, he visited the British Museum and began to work as a sculptor for furniture items. He continued his apprenticeship in London between 1907 and 1909 before joining the cubist movement in Paris. He quickly appropriated the codes of cubism and apply them on his sculptures from 1914 to 1925.

Passionate by direct cut, the young artist tried to make his talent to wood and stone, without academic training. Settled in the Parisian area of La Ruche, he met Matisse, Picasso and Modigliani. During the 1913’s Automn Salon, he gained his first successes that gave him some material comfort.  

However, his life has changed dramatically due to WWI as the artist was joining the army in January 1916. He has been assigned to the Russian Ambulance in Champagne and gassed in November. After a long stay in hospital, he has been discharged soldier in 1917 and get his pencils back. He published an album of 20 engravers on war, like an account of his life during the war. But little by little, he get back a taste for life, exhibited in Toulouse 4 direct cuts sculptures at the end of 1918, and 49 sculptures in his Parisian studio in 1920. At this time, he began to work with Galerie Barbazanges who organized a large exhibition in 1925. His art works present precise plans with sharpened edges that reveal a true geometrical precision.

His increasing success opened doors to international exhibitions : London in 1928, Venice in 1932, Brussels and even New York in 1933. He left Paris to settle with his wife in the Quercy region in 1934 and stayed in the Arques village until the French capitulation. Already introduced in the New-York art environment due to his exhibition to Joseph Brummer’s gallery in 1937, he naturally chose to exile in New York during WWII. He left Lisbonne by the last boat to America and settled Greenwich Village in 1942. Here, he gained his life by giving lessons at the Art students League from September 1943. On this year, he realized the Bust of Carol Janeway, a ceramicist he fell in love with and shared his life. He deeply influenced her artistic career and made her become the muse of many exile European artists.

Back to France, Zadkine was not the same man, changed by the ravages of war. He began to work on monumental works like Destroyed city ordered by the city of Rotterdam in 1950. At the end of this decade, Zadkine established himself as one of the biggest sculptors of the 20th century. Great international restrospectives came one after another in London, Cologne, Zurich, Jerusalem or Amsterdam.

Ossip Zadkine was a complete artist and dedicated the half of his work to illustrate books and volumes of poetry. While human figure always stayed at the heart of his work, in his last sculptures realized for architecture, Zadkine explored at the end of his life some new abstract forms, made with arabesque and interlacing lines.   

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75008 Paris, France
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