28.01.1888, Smolensk (from other sources, Vitebsk) – 25.11.1967, Paris
Sculptor, graphic artist, poet
Zadkine was the son of a teacher of classical languages at the Smolensk Seminary. He learnt joinery and wood-turning at the Vitebsk Institute, leaving in 1904, and the following year went to live with relatives in England. He lived in London until 1908, studying classical art in the British Museum and attending Regent Street Polytechnic. He produced his first sculptures on returning to Vitebsk and Smolensk in the summer.
He lived in Paris from 1909, studying with Jean-Antoine Injalbert at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts. He participated in exhibitions for the first time in 1911, at the Salon des Indépendants and the Salon d’Automne. He became friends with the artists of the School of Paris, and studied Romanesque sculpture. He exhibited in St Petersburg, Amsterdam and London in 1912–15, and took part in the Berlin Secession. He was able to rent a studio thanks to Paul Rodocanachi, the first of his collectors.
In 1915 he volunteered for frontline service in the French army and served as a medical orderly. He was gassed in 1916 and discharged in 1917. After returning to Paris he produced drawings and etchings on subjects linked to the war.
A monograph by Maurice Raynal on Zadkine appeared in Rome in 1921. He took part in exhibitions of émigré Russian artists, and in 1928 in the Russian section of the Exhibition of Modern French Art in Moscow; he gave several works to the Museum of New Western Art in Moscow. In 1932 his works were shown at the Venice Biennale. A retrospective exhibition in honour of his twenty-fifth anniversary as an artist was held in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Brussels in 1933.
In 1935 Paris purchased a three-metre wooden statue of Orpheus (1928) for the Petit Palais. In 1937 he produced the statue Messenger for the Paris Universal Exhibition. Combining the principles of Cubism and primitivism, in his works he used the contrasts of concave and convex surfaces, complex malleable ‘baroque’ forms, pauses and gaps. He lived in America during the Second World War, exhibited at the Wildenstein Gallery, and in 1944 taught at the Art Students League in New York.
He returned to Paris in 1945 and in 1949 a Zadkine retrospective took place in the Musée National d’Art Moderne in 1949. His memorial The Destroyed City. one of the most outstanding memorials to the tragedies of the Second World War, was unveiled in Rotterdam in 1953. He created the monuments to Vincent van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise and to the Van Gogh brothers in Zundert (Netherlands). In 1963 his sculpture La forêt humaine (The Human Forest) was erected in Jerusalem. A big exhibition of his works was held in the Tate Gallery, London, in 1961. In 1962 he put on the first exhibition of his tapestries. He worked on albums of lithographs, and wrote verse and his memoirs. In 1946–53 he was a professor at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. He was awarded the Grand Prize at the Venice Biennale (1950) and the Order of the Légion d’honneur (1967). The Zadkine Museum was opened in his Paris studio in 1982. F.B.