Pascin is still a teenager when he decides to leave his parents to study painting and discover the world. His father, a powerful ambassador for the Austrian Emperor and rich seed merchant, appears to be hostile to the plans of his young son.
It is the head of maison de close in Bucarest who reveals his taste for painting. She encourages him to draw, tells him about Toulouse-Lautrec, her reference, about Degas and incites him to leave for Paris.
However, the one who is still the mere little Pinkas travels to Vienna in 1903. He enrols in a local painting academy and meets George Grosz.
In 1904, in Munich, he is in contact with Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Alfred Kubin. During five years, he works as illustrator for the satirical and ironic German magazine Simplicissimus and, under the authority of his father, definitely adopts the name of Pascin.
Afer a short stay in Berlin, he arrives in Paris on December 24, 1905, greeted by the “dômier”: Rudolf Lévy, Walter Bondy and the art dealer Henri Bing, who introduces him to Hermine David. At the time, the latter is a student of Jean-Paul Laurens at the Julian Academy and paints miniatures on ivory.
In 1908, Pascin enrols in the Matisse Academy. He spends some time at the Louvre and focuses on the painters of eighteenth century: Watteau, Fragonard, Greuze and Boucher.
It is in 1910 that he meets Lucy Vidil, then the model of the Matisse Academy. He asks her to sit for him in his studio and falls in love with her. Pascin draws the essential of his resources off his job at the Simplicissimus magazine. Generous, he is famous for his parties during which one could come upon André Warnod, André Salmon, André Derain and Kisling. They are “bombing” (in French, “faire la bombe”), which they use as synonym of partying.
In 1913, Pascin sends out some of his drawings to the Armory Show in New York and is discovered by art dealers. It is his first contact with America.
From the first
shots of the First World War, he gives up his contract with the German
publishing house, leaves his studio to the Krogh, embarks for the United
States and settles down in the Jewish neighbourhood of Brooklyn. He
is greeted by the former “dômiers” Max Weber and Maurice Sterne
who introduce him into the New York avant-garde. He brings from Europe
a box of nudes that will shock the then puritan America. He meets John
Quinn who will then become one his collectors as well as the critic
Henry McBride. Hermine joins him one year later and every winter, the
couple travels to Charleston in Louisiana and to Cuba from where he
will take back a series of watercolours. Pascin sustains his relationship
with Lucy through a continuous correspondence.
Back in Paris in 1920, American citizen married to Hermine, Pascin sees Lucy again who, in the mean time, had married the norvegian painter Per Krogh and had given birth to Guy Krogh. Pascin settles down at the 3 rue Jospeh-Bara where Kisling and Zborowski are already staying. He is easily recognizable at his legendary bawler hat. On the between Montparnasse and Montmartre, he stops regularly at “la Belle Poule”, his favourite “claque” on rue Blondel. He organises parties and plays a real part in the Parisian nightlife in company of Francis Carco, Pierre Mac Orlan, André Salmon, Paul Morand, Foujita, whom he finds, and the already famous Kiki. Man Rayintorduces him to Max Ernst with whom he’ll spend several nights discussing. It is around this period that he meets Soutine at the Select. Youki Desnos tells this story in his “Confidences”: “We each took a good dozen of whiskies. In spite of the consequent atmosphere, the two artists didn’t bridge the gap between them. While leaving, Soutine told Pascin: “Do not assume that I dislike your paintings. Your little women really turn me on. – I refrain you from getting turned on in front of my women sir, answered Pascin, furious. Then he added : “I’m the son of God. Shame on those who dislike me.” Soutine was of Slavic origin, hence superstitious. He ran to Pascin, shook his hands : “but I like you a lot Pascin, believe it, I like you a lot.” And he disappeared in the dark of the night.
Between 1921 and 1922, he leaves Hermine, settles at the 36 Boulevard Clichy and will keep close and brotherly relations with her. Like his painting, he was a sensitive and sensual man. During all his life, he paints women, Kiki, Aïcha, Jacqueline Godard, Zniah Pichard, the Pelmutter sisters, Julie Luce…He organises regularly picnic gathering Hermine David, Lucy and Per Krogh, the little Guy and the group of his sitters that Pascin calls “les petites crevées”.
Between 1920 and 1930, the eternal traveller goes all over North Africa, Europe and the United States.
In 1924, he visits Tunisia with the painter Abdul Wahad.
In 1926, he pans to settle down in Palestine but changes his mind in Cairo and comes back to Paris through Tunisia with a huge number of drawings.
In 1924, the Loeb brothers open their gallery with a show of Pascin. The preface for the catalogue will be written by Pierre McOrlan. On March 31, 1925, the day he turned 40, he invites his friends at Dagorno’s. Among them, Lucy, the Salmons, the Warnods, the Dartels, Berthe Weill… A little while after, at a banquet organised in the honor of André Warnod, Pascin quarrels with Galtier-Boissière, head of the Crapouillot. Following this argument, Galtier-Boissière writes in his paper : “Will Mr. Pascin pack his luggage and go back to his Bulgarian pénates. We’ll have to do without his charming drawings, but have more than we need to be comforted.”
In 1927, Pascin travels back to New York to settle his business problems, Lucy meets him there. From 1927 to 1930, Pascin is depressive, he drinks ever more and burns his life away.
In 1927, Flechtheim organises a show in Düsseldorf and orders a portrait of him. At the same time, he signs a contract with the Bernheim Gallery which forces him to paint “pearly” nudes. Pascin never stopped being in love with Lucy. Their love story ends tragically on June 2, 1930. Pascin commits suicide in his studio, he cuts his veins, writes on the door “Goodbye Lucy” with his blood and hangs himself. He had written down his will bequeathing what he owned to Lucy and Hermine.
On June 7, 1930, Parisian art galleries are closed in his honor, more than one thoushand people follow the cortege to the small cemetery of Montparnasse. The rabbi tells the prayers and repeats several times: “Peace to his eyes”. After his death, Hermine and Lucy support each other to withstand the emotional chock and will stay bonded to each other.
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