Sigmund Menkès

1896 1986
(Ukraine) 1896 /   (Etats Unis) 1986

After a childhood spend in what he calls “a sad environment”, Sigmund Menkes, the elder of six children, enrols at the age of 16 in the Institute of Decorative Art of Lvov where he meets Alfred Aberbaum. To make a living, he works as a house painter. At the same time, Menkes studies the fresco technique and works for restoration of orthodox churches: “I had a whole ceiling for myself and I could paint whatever I wanted.” 

In 1919, he spends more time on his painting and enrols in the Fine Arts Academy of Krakow.

In 1922, Menkes is in Berlin in the studio of Alexandre Archipenko. He meets Weingart and will stay there for a year. 

He arrives in Paris in 1923 and settles down in Montparnasse where he rents a room with Weingart in a building partly transformed into a hotel for artists, the Medical Hotel. He will stay there for two years. Many artists stayed in this hotel: Efraim Mandelbaum, Eugène Zak and Marc Chagall among others. He hangs out at La Rotonde café and later at the Dôme. Menkes settles down after Slodki in the old studio of the Douanier Rousseau at the 2 bis of Rue Perrel, in Montparnasse. His sharp sense of humour makes him popular. 

From 1924, after a quick stop in Lvov in order to get financial help, he meets a collector that supports him and regularly buys his paintings. He marries Stanislawa Theodora also know as Stasia. The beautiful Stasia sits for her husband but also for Léopold Gottlieb and Raymond Kanelba. Menkès travels in the South of France and falls in love with the region of Toulon. Yet, the hard life led in the early days convinces him to go back to Poland in 1929 to look for subsidies. He comes back to Paris on the same year but this time “to stay for good and at any price”.

From 1930, he shows his painting alternatively in Lvov, Paris, Toronto and New York. 

In 1934, the collector Paul Guillaume from the jury of the Bernheim gallery, prizes the work of Menkes. He will never actually receive the prize because of his origin and his nationality. 

In 1935, he unwillingly leaves for New York, comes back to Paris three times before 1939, year when he definitively settles down in the US. He will only leave for a few stays in Israel and in Poland in 1950. Sigmund Menkes dies in his house of Riverdale, New York State, in august 1986. His last wish was for his ashes to be spread on the land of Israel.