Jesekiel David Kirszenbaum (1900-1954) – Student of the Bauhaus
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. “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. 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” 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” 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” 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” 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. Even the picture “My tears become a river” can refer to a passage from the Bible, the lament of the captives at Babel. Individual portraits of apostles, saints, meditators, thinkers and rabbis (Fig. 48) are accompanied by some of the artist’s sculptural works, including a “Jeremiah” as a teracotta figure. The highlight of this series is the life-size triptych painted in 1947 (Tel Aviv Museum of Art), 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, 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”, a “Trumpeter” 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 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. 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.
 Letter dated 20 April 1945 (see comment 57)
 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.
 J.D. Kirszenbaum 2013 (see Literature), page 98
 see the Solinger exhibition in this portal, https://www.porta-polonica.de/de/atlas-der-erinnerungsorte/jesekiel-kirszenbaum-ausstellung-solingen, Fig. 18, 19
 J.D. Kirszenbaum 2013 (see Literature), page 80 f.
 ibid., page 97, 100
 “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.“ (Psalm 137, 1)
 See the Solinger exhibition in this portal, https://www.porta-polonica.de/de/atlas-der-erinnerungsorte/jesekiel-kirszenbaum-ausstellung-solingen, Fig. 22, 23
 Photograph from 1945 in the Pompidou Centre, Paris, MNAM-Bibiothèque Kandinsky, depicted in J.D. Kirszenbaum 2013 (see Literature), page 106
 J.D. Kirszenbaum 2013 (see Literature), page 102 f.; https://www.kirszenbaum.com/france?lightbox=imageh5n
 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
 J.D. Kirszenbaum 2013 (see Literature), page 68
 See the Solinger exhibition in this portal, https://www.porta-polonica.de/de/atlas-der-erinnerungsorte/jesekiel-kirszenbaum-ausstellung-solingen, Fig. 20
 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
 Invitation card depicted in J.D. Kirszenbaum 2013 (see Literature), page 82