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Léon Zack (1892 — 1980), an avant­garde artist, poet, sculptor and stage desinger, was born on 12 July 1892 into a Jewish family in the village of Rastyapino (Nizhni Novgorod region, Russia). His mother was a daughter of a tea merchant, and his father owned a pharmacy.
In 1902–1911 he studied in Moscow gymnasium of Lazarev Institute of Oriental Languages, and graduated from it with honours.
Léon took his first art lessons from a Moscow painter A. Yakimchenko (in 1905–1906), then he attended art studios of F. I. Rerberg and I. I. Mashkov. He regularly took part in the exhibitions of Moscow Artists Fellowship since he was 16 (until 1917), and also in the ones of “Mir Iskusstva” (Saint­Petersburg, 1916 and 1917). He designed for the art journal Золотое руно / La Toison d’Or (1909, No 11/12). In 1910­ies Léon Zack joined the circle of Moscow futurists as a poet (with the pen name of Chrysanph) and artist; he designed the covers for the books of his fellow­poets and collective literary miscellanies (in 1913). He also wrote prose under the pen name of M. Rossiyansky (it was his mother’s maiden name). In 1917 he moved to Petrograd and married Nadezhda Braudo (1894–1976), the sister of Isaiah Braudo, a famous organist and musical teacher. When the revolution broke out, the young family moved to Mykolayiv, then to Yalta (both now Ukraine). In October of 1918 he took part in an exhibition “Art in the Crimea”.

In April 1920 he moved to Constantinople with his wife and daughter. He did not manage to get a French visa, so they went to Italy (Rome, then Florence). In Italy Léon got acquainted with artists P. Hosiasson and V. Boberman, who became his friends and collaborators in the following yeras. In 1921 Léon visited to take part in the salon des Artistes Indépendants.

In 1922 he moved to Berlin, working there as a stage designer of Ballet Romantiques Russes; he created costumes and sets for the ballets “Queen of May” (music by Ch. W. Gluck,1922), “Giselle” by A. Adam (1922), “Sylphide” (1924) and “Refection” on the music by S. Prokofiev (1925). He was exhibiting his works in the gallery of German art dealer Alfred Flechtheim (1922 и 1923) and in the Russian bookshop “Zarya” (January 1923), he also illustrated books.

At the end of 1923 he moved to Paris with the theatre and stayed in France. First he shared a workshop with his friends. In mid­1920­ies he took part in a number of exhibitions, also with the friends’ help. He showed his works in the salon des Artistes Indépendants and Salon d’automne (since 1924). In 1928 he had his personal exhibition in А. Manteau gallery in Brussels and signed a long­term contract with it.

Alongside with successful exhibitions in European art centres, Léon Zack created patterns for scarves and cloth for fashion designer Monatti (1926), made glass sculptures of musicians and ballet dancers for Primavera art shop in Paris.

In 1930 he joined the group of neohumanists. His personal exhibitions took place in Paris galleries J. Bonjean (1930), Quatre Chemins (1932), Simonson (1933), Wildenstein (1935), he also joined numerous group exhibitions. In 1935 Jeu de Paume gallery bought his picture “Mother and Child”. In 1938 he got French citizenship. In 1939, when the war started, he left Paris.

In 1940­ies the artist changed from neohumanism to strict expressionism, and his works were gradually becoming less and less figurative. In 1946 there were his last exhibitions of figurative works in galleries К. Granoff and А. Manteau. In the following years Léon Zack still fruitfully worked as stage designer for Vera Nemchynova company (1930), Ballet Russe de Monte­Carlo (1932), Théâtre de Châtelet (1934), Nouveau Ballet Russe de Monte­Carlo (1943) Opéra Comique (1947). In 1946–1948 he illustrated a number of books of well­known French authors, such as A. Rimbaud, P. de Ronsard, J.­B. Racine. In 1948 he created an album “171 Meditation” and wrote a poem “God Speaking”.

His daughter Irina (born 1918) also became a sculptor.

Generally speaking, the artist took part in great number of exhibitions and art projects all over Europe as well as overseas. In 1959 he bought a workshop in Vanvey, near Paris. There he lived and worked until his death on 30 March 1980. His works can be seen in Paris National Museum of Modern Art, Tate Gallery in London, Royal Museum in Brussels, in Carnegie Institute in Pittsburg as well as in the museums of Nantes, Antwerp, Venice. The manuscripts of his poems are kept in Jerusalem Philological Faculty Library.

Léon Zack biography

July 12, 1892
Nijni Novgorod, Russia
March 30, 1980
Vanves, France

Painter, sculptor


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