Joseph Constant (Joseph Constantinovsky ou Constantinovitch aka)

1892 1969
(Afrique du Sud) 1892 /   (France) 1969

Joseph Constant was born in Palestine in 1892 and grew up in Odessa. When he was young, he used to work with his father, who was a craftsman in iron. Both of them participated in the revolutionary events in 1905. In 1912, Constant enrolled in the School of Fine Arts in Odessa, where he first studied painting. During the Russian Revolution in 1917, he was appointed Fine Arts Inspector.

In 1919, his father and brother were killed in a pogrom. Together with many other artists, Constant and his wife fled Russia for Palestine aboard the Ruslan. In Tel Aviv, he made friends with the painter Alexandre Frenel. He traveled to Egypt, Turkey and Romania. In 1923, Constant arrived in Paris, where he studied art.

In the beginning of his career, Constant painted animal paintings. He used pencil, charcoal, ink, and also produced watercolors and oils on canvas. During the 1930’s, he mainly produced animal sculpture. He worked the stone, bronze, and especially the wood. He visited the Jardin des Plantes every day; this botanical garden inspired him. He is a member of a group of Israeli artists called the “Animalists”.

In Paris, Constant also developed a writing career. He wrote several books under the name Michel Matveev. His most famous book Les Traqués was published in 1933; it is a tragic story of Jews travelling across Europe in search of a safe haven. In 1936, he was awarded the Deux Magots Prize for his book Etrange Famille (strange family). In La Cité des Peintres (the painters’ city), published in 1947, he wrote about the life of the Russian Jewish artists in Montparnasse.

Joseph Constant and his friend the painter Alexandre Frenel are known as the artists of the School of Paris who introduced French impressionism and realism in Israel. They were the first who opposed the hegemony of the art school Bezalel. Constant and Frenel were also known for their bohemian life, which differed from the ideals and the reality of the pioneer society in which they lived.

During the 1950’s, he often travelled to Israel. He spent half of his life working at his studio in Montparnasse, and the other half at his studio in Israel (first in Tel Aviv, then in Ramat Gan). His studio in Ramat Gan became a sculptures gallery.