Moïse Kisling

1891 1953
(Pologne) 1891 /   (France) 1953

Moïse Kisling, son of tailor, started to study at the School of Fine Arts in Krakow under Josef Pankiewicz. The latter defended the impressionists and advised his students to go to Paris rather than to Munich.

In 1910, Kisling arrived in Paris and settled at Rue des Beaux-Arts. His mother sent him a bit of money, until an unknown Russian patron gave him a monthly installment of 150 francs The latter knew Kisling through Yiddish writer Shalom Asch.

Kisling spent time with artists in Montparnasse and struck up a friendship with Picasso, Juan Gris, Max Jacob and Manolo. In 1912, in Céret, he met his first dealer Adolphe Basler, who bought all of his paintings in exchange for a monthly payment of 300 Francs.

When he got back from Céret in 1913, he settled in a studio in 3 Rue Joseph-Bara. The receptions that he held on Wednesdays were famous. His studio was the place where Modigliani, Soutine, Derain and Juan Gris used to meet. Pascin, the Krogh’s, father and son, and later Zborowski lived in the same building. The Janitor Mrs. Marie Salomon ruled the house with an iron hand and terrified everybody but Kisling. He attended Baronness Hélène d’OEttingen’s famous parties, which were the literary and artistic center in Montparnasse until 1914.

Kisling was caught out by World War I as he was visiting Belgium with Basler. He returned to France in order to enlist in the French Foreign Legion. He was wounded in 1915, during the same battle where Blaise Cendrars lost an arm. He was discharged from service, and as he returned to Montparnasse, he was surprised to discover that a young American soldier who died during the war bequeathed 25,000 francs to him. He visited Spain, returned to Paris and met Zborowski. In 1919, the Druet Gallery organized its first exhibition. His painting was a success, and his models were the stars of that time: Falconetti, Valentine Tessier, Arletty, Cocteau, Colette, Marie Laurencin et Kiki de Montparnasse.

As World War II broke out, Kisling went to live in his house in Sanary. In 1940, he left for New York where his painting was also appreciated. He returned to France in August 1946 and went to Sanary, where he lived until he died on 29 April 1953.