Jesekiel David Kirszenbaum (1900-1954) – Student of the Bauhaus

Self-portrait, ca. 1925. Oil on canvas, 55 x 37.5 cm
Self-portrait, ca. 1925. Oil on canvas, 55 x 37.5 cm

Kirszenbaum, now in the Rue Bobillot in Paris again not far from the Montparnasse artists’ quarter, experienced the end of the war and the period following it in utter desperation without news of his wife’s whereabouts.[83] “I have been living in pain and bitterness ever since. I am not a saint, I don’t have any faith in humans or in my own life”, he is later quoted as saying.[84] Artistically, he remained faithful to his previous themes initially. A series of paintings he produced again deals with the Exodus, i.e. with the flight and expulsion of the Jews. This series includes the expressive image “Exodus of a mother with two children “ (Fig. 44), the painting “My tears become a river”[85] with the portrait of an old man weeping in the foreground and fleeing and resting Jews behind him (both from 1945), as well as a picture with “Refugees”[86] huddling together in a boat on the open sea (undated, Tel Aviv Museum of Art). Several figure paintings again evoke his recollections of Staszów, including a “Blind fiddler”, a “Seated pedlar”, a “Jewish man with Tallit”[87] and a “Man from Staszów” painted in expressive contours (Fig. 45), as well as the impressionist “Portrait of Jew with pipe” which is sketched in a more or less cubist style (Fig. 46). In 1946 he produced a final version of the “The arrival of the Messiah in the shtetl” (Fig. 47) with some caricatures and some grotesquely positioned colourful figures.

The bust of Christ on the cross (1944) and an ink drawing with the Hebrew inscription “God, why have you forsaken us”[88] were followed by more biblical themes: the portrait of a weeping Jewish man that can also be interpreted as Jesus with the crown of thorns, and an image of the despairing Job as a three-quarter figure.[89] Even the picture “My tears become a river” can refer to a passage from the Bible, the lament of the captives at Babel[90]. Individual portraits of apostles, saints, meditators, thinkers[91] and rabbis (Fig. 48) are accompanied by some of the artist’s sculptural works, including a “Jeremiah” as a teracotta figure[92]. The highlight of this series is the life-size triptych painted in 1947 (Tel Aviv Museum of Art),[93] of the prophets Moses, Jeremiah and Elias whose cubistically simplified contours in muted red and blue tones are possibly influenced by Rouault. By contrast, a series of paintings in which flying angels carry the lost souls out of the shtetl,[94] one of which is entitled “There is no room for Jews in our world”, are reminiscent of Chagall (Fig. 49).

The broad spectrum of the artist’s stylistic abilities is demonstrated in two contemplative portraits produced in 1946: the self-portrait (Fig. 50) painted in a late-impressionist style and the portrait of the young journalist Robert Giraud (1921-1997, Fig. 51), which is reminiscent in its style of the portraits painted by Modigliani, who died in 1920. Giraud hailed from Limoges, was imprisoned there by the Germans as a member of the Résistance and lived in Paris from the end of the war onwards. In 1945, Kirszenbaum had an exhibition in the Galerie Folklore, twenty kilometres south of Bellac. However, it is not known where the two met.

In 1946 Kirszenbaum’s palette became noticeably more colourful (Fig. 47, 49) and he began to tackle new themes. A “Harlequin”,[95] a “Trumpeter”[96] and a “Violinist” in gala dress refer to the world of the circus, a theme that was often favoured by the painters of the École de Paris, especially Rouault. The two-dimensional, vibrant colourfulness of these figure paintings alludes to the group of the Fauves, perhaps to Derain. Another visual recollection of Staszów, the watercolour “The butcher” (Fig. 52), owned by the National centre for the fine arts/Centre national des arts plastiques[97] in Paris, is also reminiscent of the Fauves with its splotches of colour.

During this period, Kirszenbaum managed to resurrect old contacts and form new ones. In 1946, he took part in the Salon des Tuileries and in the exhibition of the Salon de Mai group of artists, which was formed in opposition to the National Socialists in 1943 during the German occupation of Paris. In the same year, and again in 1952, the French National collection of contemporary art/Fond national d’art contemporain acquired works by Kirszenbaum that can be found today in the National centre for the fine arts/Centre national des arts plastiques. In 1947, he exhibited in the Galerie des Quatre chemins and in the salon of the group of artists called Les Surindépendants, of which he became a member the following year. But above all he was supported by Baroness Alix de Rothschild, who helped numerous artists in the post-war years to get back on their feet artistically. She took painting and drawing lessons with him, received him as a guest in her house, acquired his works and exhibited his latest works “Sacred arts, religious subjects” in 1947 at her premises in Avenue Foch 21 in Paris.[98] She supported the artist during the seven years that followed, organised the commemorative exhibition in 1961 in the Galerie Karl Flinker in Paris and bequeathed important works by Kirszenbaum from her collection to Israeli museums.

 

[83] Letter dated 20 April 1945 (see comment 57)

[84] Quoted from Frédéric Hagen: J.D. Kirszenbaum = Galerie Karl Flinker exhibition catalogue, Paris 1961 (see comment 7), in: J.D. Kirszenbaum 2013, page 78 f.

[85] J.D. Kirszenbaum 2013 (see Literature), page 98

[88] J.D. Kirszenbaum 2013 (see Literature), page 80 f.

[89] ibid., page 97, 100

[90] “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.“ (Psalm 137, 1)

[92] Photograph from 1945 in the Pompidou Centre, Paris, MNAM-Bibiothèque Kandinsky, depicted in J.D. Kirszenbaum 2013 (see Literature), page 106

[93] J.D. Kirszenbaum 2013 (see Literature), page 102 f.; https://www.kirszenbaum.com/france?lightbox=imageh5n

[94] Photograph in the Pompidou Centre, Paris, MNAM Kandinsky Library/MNAM-Bibiothèque Kandinsky, depicted in J.D. Kirszenbaum 2013 (see Literature), page 84; painting in private ownership

[95] J.D. Kirszenbaum 2013 (see Literature), page 68

[97] Works of Kirszenbaum in the possession of the National centre for the fine arts/Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris, see http://www.cnap.fr/collection-en-ligne/#/artworks?layout=grid&page=0&filters=authors%3AKIRSZENBAUM%20Jecheskiel%20David%E2%86%B9KIRSZENBAUM%20Jecheskiel%20David

[98] Invitation card depicted in J.D. Kirszenbaum 2013 (see Literature), page 82

Mediathek
  • Fig. 1: J.D. Kirszenbaum, 1920

    Fig. 1: J.D. Kirszenbaum, 1920

    J.D. Kirszenbaum drawing a portrait, 1920. Photograph owned by the family
  • Fig. 2: Study of Maïmonide, 1925

    Fig. 2: Study of Maïmonide, 1925

    Studying the Maïmonide, 1925. Ink on paper, 50 x 32 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 3: Musicians and their disciples, 1925

    Fig. 3: Musicians and their disciples, 1925

    Musicians and their disciples, 1925. Ink on paper, 50 x 32 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 4: Sorrow, ca. 1925

    Fig. 4: Sorrow, ca. 1925

    Sorrow, ca. 1925. Watercolour, 35.5 x 25 cm, Jewish Historical Institute/Żydowski Instytut Historyczny im. Emanuela Ringelbluma, Warsaw
  • Fig. 5: Fiddler in the Shtetl, ca. 1925

    Fig. 5: Fiddler in the Shtetl, ca. 1925

    Fiddler in the Shtetl, ca. 1925 Oil on canvas, 90 x 71 cm, Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem
  • Fig. 6: The wedding, 1925

    Fig. 6: The wedding, 1925

    The wedding, 1925. Ink on paper, 28 x 22 cm, Jewish Historical Institute/Żydowski Instytut Historyczny im. Emanuela Ringelbluma, Warsaw
  • Fig. 7: In the Beth Hamedrasch, ca. 1925

    Fig. 7: In the Beth Hamedrasch, ca. 1925

    In the Beth Hamedrasch, ca. 1925. Etching, 15 x 12 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 8: Midnight prayer, ca. 1925

    Fig. 8: Midnight prayer, ca. 1925

    Midnight prayer, ca. 1925. Etching, 15 x 12 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 9: Yom Kippur, ca. 1925

    Fig. 9: Yom Kippur, ca. 1925

    Yom Kippur prayer, ca. 1925. Etching, 10 x 14 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 10: Hassidim, 1925

    Fig. 10: Hassidim, 1925

    Dance of the Hassidim, 1925. Drypoint etching, 25 x 17.5 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 11: Cossack pogrom, ca. 1930

    Fig. 11: Cossack pogrom, ca. 1930

    Pogrom by the Cossacks, ca. 1930. Etching, 25 x 27 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 12: Water carrier, 1925/26

    Fig. 12: Water carrier, 1925/26

    Water carrier, 1925/26. Illustration to accompany: Adam Olearius, Die erste russische Revoulution (1656), in: Der Querschnitt, Volume 7, Berlin 1927, Issue 3, page 195
  • Fig. 13: Harmonica player, 1925/26

    Fig. 13: Harmonica player, 1925/26

    Harmonica player, 1925/26. Illustration to accompany: S. Dimitrijewski, Stalin – Aufstieg eines Mannes, in: Der Querschnitt, Volume 11, Berlin 1931, Issue 6, page 367
  • Fig. 14: Fiddler, 1926

    Fig. 14: Fiddler, 1926

    Fiddler, 1926. Illustration to accompany: Ramon Gomez de la Serna: Maria Wassiljewna. Russische Novelle, in: Der Querschnitt, Volume 9, Berlin 1929, Issue 2, page 95
  • Fig. 15: Satirical illustrations, 1926

    Fig. 15: Satirical illustrations, 1926

    Three satirical illustrations. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 55th Edition, No. 21, 12 March 1926, page 82
  • Fig. 16: Three cartoons, 1926

    Fig. 16: Three cartoons, 1926

    Three cartoons. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 55th Edition, No. 21, 28 May 1926, page 158
  • Fig. 17: Carte blanche for the “truth”!, 1926

    Fig. 17: Carte blanche for the “truth”!, 1926

    Carte blanche for the “truth”! In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 55th Edition, No. 26, 2 July 1926, page 195
  • Fig. 18: Mistaken, 1926

    Fig. 18: Mistaken, 1926

    Mistaken. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 55th Edition, No. 35, 3 September 1926, page 267
  • Fig. 19: Three cartoons, 1926

    Fig. 19: Three cartoons, 1926

    Three cartoons. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 55th Edition, No. 36, 10 September 1926, page 274
  • Fig. 20: Buds of the Nation, 1926

    Fig. 20: Buds of the Nation, 1926

    Buds of the Nation. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 55th Edition, No. 47, 26 November 1926, page 367
  • Fig. 21: Film stars, 1927

    Fig. 21: Film stars, 1927

    Film stars. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 5, 4 February 1927, page 38
  • Fig. 22: The sporty friend of the family, 1927

    Fig. 22: The sporty friend of the family, 1927

    The sporty friend of the family In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 6, 11 February 1927, page 43
  • Fig. 23: Beauty treatment, 1927

    Fig. 23: Beauty treatment, 1927

    Beauty treatment. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 11, 18 March 1927, page 83
  • Fig. 24: Tedious times, 1927

    Fig. 24: Tedious times, 1927

    Tedious times. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 14, 8 April 1927, page 107
  • Fig. 25: Dawn, 1927

    Fig. 25: Dawn, 1927

    Dawn. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 17, 29 April 1927, page 126
  • Fig. 26: Patriotism, 1927

    Fig. 26: Patriotism, 1927

    Patriotism. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 18, 6 May 1927, page 134
  • Fig. 27: Summer fashion, 1927

    Fig. 27: Summer fashion, 1927

    Summer fashion. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 25, 24 June 1927, page 187
  • Fig. 28: Difficult case, 1927

    Fig. 28: Difficult case, 1927

    Difficult case. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 30, 29 July 1927, page 230
  • Fig. 29: Remedy for obesity, 1927

    Fig. 29: Remedy for obesity, 1927

    Remedy for obesity. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 41, 14 October 1927, page 319
  • Fig. 30: Two cartoons, 1927

    Fig. 30: Two cartoons, 1927

    Two cartoons. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 45, 11 November 1927, page 351
  • Fig. 31: The Expressionists´ Ball, 1928

    Fig. 31: The Expressionists´ Ball, 1928

    The Expressionists´ Ball. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 57th Edition, No. 44, 2 November 1928, page 354
  • Fig. 32: The art enthusiast, 1929

    Fig. 32: The art enthusiast, 1929

    The art enthusiast. In: Jugend, 34th Edition, Munich 1929, No. 28, page 450
  • Fig. 33: Everyone once in prison, 1929

    Fig. 33: Everyone once in prison, 1929

    Everyone once in prison. In: Jugend, 34th Edition, Munich 1929, No. 37, page 597
  • Fig. 34: Snippets of conversation, 1931

    Fig. 34: Snippets of conversation, 1931

    Snippets of conversation. In: Jugend, 36th Edition, Munich 1931, No. 29, page 457
  • Fig. 35: The table of regulars, 1931

    Fig. 35: The table of regulars, 1931

    The table of regulars. Illustration to accompany: Jules Sauerwein, Verständnis für Deutschland, in: Der Querschnitt, Volume 11, Berlin 1931, Issue 5, page 291
  • Fig. 36: Matadors of the Reichstag, 1931

    Fig. 36: Matadors of the Reichstag, 1931

    Matadors of the Reichstag. Illustration to accompany: O.B. Server, Matadore des Reichstags VII, in: Der Querschnitt, Volume 11, Berlin 1931, Issue 8, page 555
  • Fig. 37: Man with cigarette, 1935

    Fig. 37: Man with cigarette, 1935

    Man with cigarette, 1935. Watercolour, 47 x 35 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 38: The Jewish villagers, 1937

    Fig. 38: The Jewish villagers, 1937

    The Jewish villagers greeting the Messiah, 1937. Oil on artist’s board, 59 x 69 cm, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
  • Fig. 39: The arrival of the Messiah, 1939

    Fig. 39: The arrival of the Messiah, 1939

    The arrival of the Messiah in the village, 1939. Oil on canvas, 60 x 75 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 40: Family on the move, 1939

    Fig. 40: Family on the move, 1939

    Family with wagon on the move, 1939. From the series: Exodus, etching, 10 x 12 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 41: Fleeing, 1939

    Fig. 41: Fleeing, 1939

    Fleeing, 1939. From the series: Exodus, etching, 9 x 12 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 42: Water carrier, 1942

    Fig. 42: Water carrier, 1942

    Water carrier from Staszów, 1942. Oil on canvas, 50 x 40 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 43: The Messiah, 1942

    Fig. 43: The Messiah, 1942

    The Messiah and angels arriving in the village, 1942. Oil on canvas, 40 x 45 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 44: On the run, 1945

    Fig. 44: On the run, 1945

    A mother and two children on the run, 1945. Oil on paintersá card, 37 x 37 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 45: Man from Staszów, ca. 1946

    Fig. 45: Man from Staszów, ca. 1946

    Man from Staszów, ca. 1946. Oil on canvas, 50 x 45 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 46: Jew with pipe

    Fig. 46: Jew with pipe

    Portrait of Jew with pipe, undated. Oil on canvas, 61 x 45.4 cm, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
  • Fig. 47: The Messiah in the shtetl, 1946

    Fig. 47: The Messiah in the shtetl, 1946

    The arrival of the Messiah in the shtetl, 1946. Oil on canvas, 40 x 45 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 48: Rabbi, 1947

    Fig. 48: Rabbi, 1947

    Rabbi, 1947. Oil on canvas, 75 x 60 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 49: No room for Jews

    Fig. 49: No room for Jews

    There is no room for Jews in our world, undated. Oil on canvas, 33 x 40 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 50: Self-portrait, 1946

    Fig. 50: Self-portrait, 1946

    Self-portrait, 1946. Oil on canvas, 78 x 60 cm, Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem
  • Fig. 51: Portrait of Robert Giraud, 1946

    Fig. 51: Portrait of Robert Giraud, 1946

    Portrait of Robert Giraud, 1946. Oil on canvas, 46 x 37 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 52: The butcher, 1947/48

    Fig. 52: The butcher, 1947/48

    The butcher (Le Boucher), 1947/48. Watercolour, 54 x 41 cm, Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris
  • Fig. 53: Brazilian boy, 1947

    Fig. 53: Brazilian boy, 1947

    Brazilian boy with kite, 1947. Oil on canvas, 46 x 25 cm, Mishkan Museum of Art, Ein Harod
  • Fig. 54: Festa de São João, 1952

    Fig. 54: Festa de São João, 1952

    Festa de São João in São Paulo, 1952. Oil on canvas, 117 x 80 cm, Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris
  • Fig. 55: In his Parisian studio, ca. 1952

    Fig. 55: In his Parisian studio, ca. 1952

    J.D. Kirszenbaum in his studio in Paris, ca. 1952. Photograph owned by the family
  • Fig. 56: Fish with abstract background

    Fig. 56: Fish with abstract background

    Fish with abstract background, undated. Watercolour, 30 x 48 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 57: Abstract

    Fig. 57: Abstract

    Abstract, undated. Gouache, 17 x 22,5 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 58: Fish, 1954

    Fig. 58: Fish, 1954

    Fish on flat background, 1954. Oil on canvas, 35 x 28 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 59: The Prophet Elijah, ca. 1954

    Fig. 59: The Prophet Elijah, ca. 1954

    The Prophet Elijah, ca. 1954. Watercolour, 75 x 95 cm, owned by the family
  • PDF 1: Der Sturm catalogue, 1927

    J.D. Kirschenbaum exhibition. Paintings, watercolours, drawings, Der Sturm catalogue, Berlin, April 1927
  • PDF 2: Die Rote Fahne, 1931

    Alfred Durus: Ein Künstler des ostjüdischen Proletariats. J.D. Kirschenbaum, in: Die Rote Fahne dated 5 November 1931
  • PDF 3: Ten watercolours by Kirszenbaum, 1953

    Ten watercolours by Kirszenbaum. Inspired by the Hassidic legends of I. L. Peretz. Preface by Waldemar George, Paris: Au pont des arts, 1953