Ossip Zadkine (1888 - 1967)

Ossip Zadkine was born in Vitebsk, Russia, the same town as his contemporary, Chagall. Between 1905 - 1909 he travelled to London to study classical sculpture at the British Museum – a period that was to have a marked impact on his later works, in particular the thirties gouaches. In 1910 he moved to Paris, later taking a room in Montparnasse in the rue de Vaugirard in 1912-13, where he worked alongside many of the Ecole de Paris artists. There he met Brancusi, Apollinaire, Lipchitz, Picasso, Matisse and Modigliani, who was to become a great friend to Zadkine.

Zadkine’s early works reveal a great admiration for the expressive power of primitive art and an ability to adapt its boldness and stark simplicity in his own work. From 1914 the influence mainly of Lipchitz led to his cubist creations. These works translated the abstract character of cubist painting into shifting flat planes, angularity, and contrasts of convex and concave areas, both in sculpture and in painting.

Towards the end of the decade and throughout the twenties and thirties, Zadkine enjoyed international success with shows in Tokyo (Takenodai Gallery, 1922), Paris (Retrospective, Barbazanges Gallery, (1926), London (1928), Chicago (Arts Club, 1930), Brussels, and New York (1937). Hailed as a hugely important and influential European artist, the Museum of Modern Art in New York held a Zadkine retrospective in 1949. In 1961 the Tate Gallery in London also held a seminal exhibition of his work, followed shortly after by a retrospective in the Kunsthaus Zurich in 1965.

Whilst Zadkine was better known as a sculptor; primarily of deconstructed stone and wooden statues, striking in their strongly geometric, closed forms; from around 1922 he worked on a number of gouaches, watercolours, drawings and lithographs. 

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Steven Graven

London, UK

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