Jésékiel Kirszenbaum

1900 1954
(Pologne) 1900 /   (France) 1954

Kirszenbaum was born in Poland into a religious family. Since he was a child, he spent his time drawing and painting. When he was twelve years old, people already called him “the Artist” and he started to design shop signs.

Kirszenbaum arrived in Berlin in 1920. He continued to paint and taught Hebrew in order to earn a living. He was attracted by Paul Klee’s and Wassily Kandinsky’s fame, and went to Weimar in 1923. He studied at the Bauhaus for three semesters, and then returned to Berlin. For a few years, he worked as an illustrator and signed his work with the nickname Duvtivani. His dream came true in 1933, when he arrived in Paris and devoted himself to painting. Kirszenbaum produced oil paintings and watercolors inspired by biblical scenes and life in the shtetl.

When World War II broke out, Kirszenbaum got away from the Nazis, but his wife was deported. (“Since then, my life has been painful and bitter. I am not a saint, I no longer have any trust in mankind or in my own life…”). His works prior to 1940 were destroyed.

In 1948, he went to Brazil where he met his sister who had survived concentration camps and he participated in several exhibitions. He was desperate to return to France, for which he was tremendously nostalgic. (“For people like us whose spirit is particularly sensitive, it is only in Paris and in France that the saddest loneliness still participates in the imperishable symphony of spirits …”).

Back in Paris in 1949, Kirszenbaum acquired French nationality. He met Baroness Alix de Rotschield, who was sensitive to art and appreciated his work. She took it upon herself to help him. He produced three monumental boards representing the prophets Elijah, Jeremiah and Moses. He called her his “benefactress angel”.

He illustrated books written by I.L Peretz, a Yiddish writer whose stories revealed the essence of the hassidic movement. In 1950 and 1951, he travelled to Morocco and Italy.

Kirszenbaum died of cancer in 1954.