To celebrate its 40th anniversary, the Zadkine Museum in Paris invites us to discover the life and work of Ossip Zadkine and his wife, the painter Valentine Prax, through a hundred works, including many photographs of the couple.
Marc Vaux (1895-1971), Zadkine in His Studio on Rue Rousselet, Leaning Against Formes féminines, c. 1920, gelatin silver print, 24 x 17.7 cm/9.4 x 6.9 in. Paris, Musée Zadkine.
Adagp, Paris, 2023 Photo © Marc Vaux
"Come and see my madness at Assas and you will see how a man's life can be changed by a dovecote, or by a tree," wrote Ossip Zadkine on April 11, 1928, to his friend, the critic André de Ridder. The house-studio, that Zadkine purchased thanks to the sale of a sculpture, had a strong impact on his work: he said that it was by looking at his large wood pieces, so full of life in the space of his studio, he felt that "[t]o withdraw into [his] imagination is to live". Thus he broke away from the Cubism he had experimented with in the early years, which proved too rigid for his temperament, seeking more emotion and lyricism to express himself and find his identity. After the war, influenced by plant forms and trees stretched upward towards the sky—the rebirth of foliage, like a message of hope, echoing this period of renewal—he allowed himself to create monumental sculptures whose strength continues to move us.
The Zadkine Museum is already 40 years old and, for four decades—from 1928 to 1967—was home to the daily creative work of two artists, Ossip Zadkine and the painter Valentine Prax. This anniversary is an opportunity to highlight once again the sculptor, of course, but also his wife, and to show that their explorations sometimes converged.
The photographs, drawn from the immense collection—nearly 4,000 in storage—are displayed in an interplay of reflections. Arranged with personal objects of the couple, they unfold chronologically, providing a touch of intimacy to the journey in three stages, from the early days in Montparnasse to the success of the post-war period, when the studio became a teaching center. As a result, they bring more life to the sculptures, which remain the central subject. With this exhibition, the museum becomes once again the house-studio it was during Zadkine's lifetime.