Arthur Kolnik, Jewish painter and printmaker Ivano-Frankivsk (Ukraine) 1890 - Paris (France) 1972
Arthur Kolnik was born in Stanislavov, a small town in Galicia, which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father, who was originally from Lithuania, worked as an accountant and his mother, who was originally from Vienna, ran a shop. In 1905, he discovered Yiddish literature in Czernowitz, on the occasion of the first conference on Yiddish language, which was organized by several writers including I. L. Peretz, Cholem Aleichem, Shalom Asch, and Nomberg.
In 1909, Kolnik joined the School of Fine Arts in Krakow and took classes taught by Jacek Malezcewski and Joseph Mehoffer, a portrait painter and an artist who produced stained-glass windows in Fribourg (Switzerland).
He was mobilized in the Austrian army in 1914. He was wounded in 1916 and repatriated to Vienna, where he met the Judaic painter Isidor Kaufmann. In 1919, Kolnik settled in Czernowitz, which was then annexed by Romania. There, he met writer and poet Itzik Manger and storyteller Eliezer Steinberg for whom he produced several illustrations. In 1920, Kolnik left for the United States, bringing fifty paintings with him, after he saw an advertisement in a Yiddish newspaper about an exhibition of Jewish Polish painters in New York. He found out that it was too late for his Judaica paintings to be exhibited in this exhibition, but he luckily met photographer Alfred Stieglitz who found him a gallery and organized an exhibition of his work.
In 1931, Kolnik arrived in Paris with his family. For several years, he gave up painting. His wife taught piano and he drew for fashion journals. In 1934, he produced an album of twenty-four engravings, Sous le chapeau haut de forme (Underneath the Top Hat), which was prefaced by Henri Barbusse. He later produced twelve plates for Grosbart’s Les Personnages (The Characters). In 1948, he illustrated I.L. Peretz’ Métamorphoses d’une mélodie (Metamorphosis of a Melody).
In 1940, he was interned at the Récébédou camp in Haute-Garonne with his wife and daughter.
Following the war, Arthur Kolnik stayed in London, New York, Krakow, Vienna, Riga, and Buenos Aires, where he exhibited his work. He contributed to the journal Nos Artistes (Our Artists). In 1955, in New York, he was awarded the Chaban prize for his graphic work. In 1962, his fist solo exhibition took place in Paris at the Galerie Creuze. That same year, he traveled to Israel for the first time.
The School of Paris, Ecole de Paris, was not a single art movement or institution, but refers to the importance of Paris as a center of Western art in the early decades of the 20th century. Between 1900 and 1940 the city drew artists from all over the world and became a centre for artistic activity. School of Paris was used to describe this loose community, particularly of non-French artists, centered in the cafes, salons and shared workspaces and galleries of Montparnasse. Before World War I, a group of expatriates in Paris created art in the styles of Post-Impressionism, Cubism and Fauvism. The group included artists like Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Amedeo Modigliani and Piet Mondrian. Associated French artists included Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse, Jean Metzinger and Albert Gleizes.
The term "School of Paris" was used in 1925 by André Warnod to refer to the many foreign-born artists who had migrated to Paris. The term soon gained currency, often as a derogatory label by critics who saw the foreign artists—many of whom were Jewish—as a threat to the purity of French art. Art critic Louis Vauxcelles, noted for coining the terms "Fauvism" and "Cubism", Waldemar George, himself a French Jew, in 1931 lamented that the School of Paris name "allows any artist to pretend he is French. it refers to French tradition but instead annihilates it.
The artists working in Paris between World War I and World War II experimented with various styles including Cubism, Orphism, Surrealism and Dada. Foreign and French artists working in Paris included Jean Arp, Joan Miro, Constantin Brancusi, Raoul Dufy, Tsuguharu Foujita, artists from Belarus like Michel Kikoine, Pinchus Kremegne, and Jacques Lipchitz, the Polish artist Marek Szwarc and others such as Russian-born prince Alexis Arapoff.
A significant subset, the Jewish artists, came to be known as the Jewish School of Paris or the School of Montparnasse. The core members were almost all Jews, and the resentment expressed toward them by French critics in the 1930s was unquestionably fueled by anti-Semitism. Jewish members of the group included Emmanuel Mané-Katz, Chaim Soutine, Adolphe Féder, Chagall, Moïse Kisling, Maxa Nordau and Shimshon Holzman.
The Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme has works from School of Paris artists including Pascin, Kikoine, Soutine, Orloff and Lipchitz.