Jules Pascin

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Montmartre and Montparnasse of the 1920's immediately evokes the name of Jules Pascin and that of his wife, Hermine David. If Man Ray can be called the eyes of Paris in the années folles, Pascin, surely, was its heart.

Born Julius Pincas in Bulgaria, Pascin had an exotic adolescence: at 15, he was drawing from life at the local bordello, where he resided under the Madame's protection. In 1902, at the age of 17, he travelled to Berlin, Vienna and Munich, attending various art schools and supporting himself by selling satirical drawings to Simplicissimus and other German magazines. Widely recognized for his witty and incisive contributions to these reviews, he was greeted upon arrival at the Gare Montparnasse in 1905 by a contingent of prominent "Dômiers", an international group of artists and writers who gathered at the Café du Dôme, where Pascin soon became a fixture. When he wasn't sketching there — using anything at hand, including the burnt ends of matchsticks, or coffee grounds for color — he was hosting the extravagant all-night parties which became left-bank legend.

A superb, subtle colorist with a spontaneous and expressive line, Pascin was quickly embraced as a major talent by the art worlds on both sides of the Atlantic. At the New York Armory show in 1913, he was represented by a dozen works; only a few months into his stay in America in 1915, he was given a one-man show by a Madison Avenue gallery. In his extensive travels, including prolonged stays in the southern U.S. and Cuba, Pascin recorded his surroundings in works at once delicate, playful, shrewd and intimate. Amidst growing appreciation for his "elegant little obscenities" (George Grosz), on the eve of a one-man show in a prestigious Paris gallery in 1930, Pascin, distraught over his stormy affair with Lucy Krohg, hanged himself in his Montmartre studio.

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