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Abraham Mintchine

An Artist Without a Biography: The Life and Work of Abraham Mintchine

Masterpieces of Abraham Mintchine increasingly attract the attention of collectors from around the world and the cost of his paintings with enviable regularity set new records at auction. Today, a significant collection of works by the artist is collected in the Malabart Gallery.








In general, Abram Mintchine's artistic manner is characterized with expressive brushstrokes, free and dynamic brushstrokes give his works liveliness and emotional intensity/ The use of bright and contrasting colors helps to convey mood and atmosphere. Mintchine masterfully conveys the texture of objects, whether they are rocks, water, or fabrics. His paintings are distinguished by stylized and flowing forms, which is a hallmark of expressionism.


These elements create Abram Mintchine's unique artistic style, making his works recognizable and expressive.


Abraham Mintchine lived under the same roof and shared meals with Marc Chagall and Haim Sutin. Knowing that his time was short, he painted tirelessly. His paintings, carefully preserved in museums in Paris, depict the same harlequins, poets, and wanderers that Abram Minchin himself was. While working on a portrait of Robert Falk, he felt a premonition of the tragic fate of the subject. At times, this feeling would make him reluctant to continue painting. However, in 1931, he completed the portrait of Abram Minchin. Minchin, depicted in pensive confusion against a background of white emptiness, died that same year at the age of 33. Falk mentioned that the work was still unfinished. Minchin lived knowing his end was near, working day and night. His passion for painting was insatiable, and his fans were inconsolable after his death. Dozens of exhibitions were held throughout the twentieth century in cities like Paris, London, New York, Milan, and Rome.



An artist without a biography, Abram Minchin was born in Kiev in 1898. Little is known about his family, except that he had a brother who also became an artist and died in Auschwitz. At the age of 13, Abram began an apprenticeship with a jeweler. The master appreciated Abram's sketches, and after three years, he encouraged him to pursue painting by studying at an art school. In 1914, Abram enrolled at the Kiev Art School, although researchers have been unable to find his name among the graduates or any other details of his life until the early 1920s.


In 1923, already married, Minchin left with his wife for Berlin. There, he sketched scenery for a Jewish theatre, began to paint pictures, and then fell ill with tuberculosis. Three years later, he moved to Paris and settled in a shabby workshop in an old two-story building on the Rue de la Glacière, which was then on the outskirts of the city. To earn money, he colored cheap fabrics for handkerchiefs and plates.




At the beginning of the last century, the Paris School of Painting was still in its early stages, and its members resided in Montparnasse. Some of the initial names included Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Jules Paskin, Marc Chagall, and Haim Sutin. They were all relatively unknown and unrecognized at the time, just starting out.


Abram Minchin also joined them, relocating from Glacier to the Rotunda building, also known as the Beehive or La Ruche.


The wine pavilion for the World Exhibition, designed by Eiffel, was purchased by the successful architect and painter Alfred Boucher and relocated to the land he acquired in Montparnasse. During the opening of one of the world's first art co-working spaces, an orchestra performed the Marseillaise. Known as a friend and patron of young unrecognized painters, he provided them with workshop rooms for free. Soon, the house of 'Papa Boucher' became the hub of international bohemia, with artists arriving in Paris eagerly settling there.


The neighborhood was filled with sprawling wastelands. There was a cowshed nearby, and you could hear the sound of mooing, especially on the day of slaughter. Factory chimneys were also billowing smoke. Chagall described the 'Hive' as follows: "From the studio of a Russian artist, one could hear disordered sitters sobbing at times, Italians singing songs and playing the guitar, and Jews endlessly arguing. I would sit alone in my studio in the light of a paraffin lamp. It was full of paintings, or rather, not canvases, but my torn sheets, towels, and shirts."


Minchin did not keep a diary, but it is easy to assume that he worked under similar conditions. Chagall, Sutin, and he kept away from the bohemian crowd. Writing, interrupted only by sleep and food, was more important to them. After creating two landscapes a day, at night Minchin would switch to watercolors and work until morning under electric light. In a year, he would produce several hundred works.




In 1929, his paintings were first displayed at the Alice Manto Gallery. However, there is very little information available about this gallery, with only brief mentions in art catalogues. Maurice Blond, who was from Lodz, and Victor Bart, born in Stavropol province, also exhibited alongside him at that time. The exhibition was successful, and Manto signed a contract with Minchin to sell his paintings on commission. He was well received at several more group exhibitions, and in the late 1920s, he was offered solo exhibitions at the galleries of Manto and Leopold Zborowski. The latter was a French patron of the arts with Jewish-Polish roots, known for being a controversial figure: a dealer in paintings, a collector, a poet, and a disinterested man at the end of his life. In general, he was seen as a mirror of his subjects.


In 1928, Abram Minchin's paintings, along with works by other artists, were exhibited in Moscow. That same year, Minchin met the art dealer René Gimpel, who became the main buyer of his works. In total, Gimpel bought more than 80 paintings from Minchin, which allowed the artist to achieve financial independence and move from Paris to the small town of Le Garde in the suburbs of Toulon. Minchin hoped that the Mediterranean climate, the sea, and the mountains would improve his health. Every morning, Minchin went out with a sketchbook into the fields to paint French pastoral scenes. On April 25, 1931, he painted a colorful hill near the village of Saint Margaret. While working on the painting, he fell ill, and nearby peasants took him to the nearest fisherman's cafe. Unfortunately, the doctor did not arrive in time.



René Gimpel was deeply saddened by the loss and referred to Minchin as an 'untimely lost genius.' French critic Gilles Aronson, in the artist's last landscape 'Hill with Red Flowers,' observed red hues in everything: flowers, the sky, and the absolutely straight, as if praying, cypresses. In general, the characters in Abram Minchin's paintings resembled himself: homeless vagabonds, harlequins, poets, and seekers, frozen inconsolably in the light of the sun or candles.







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