Mikhail Kikoin

Mikhail Kikoin

M. Kikoin. Akko. 1950-1954. B., gouache. 49 × 65 cm. Collection of the Michel Kikoin Foundation.

Mikhail Kikoin Belarusian and French painter

Although the name Kikoin and does not appear in the textbooks on Russian art, and he himself was familiar to the XX century. the type of artist whose nationality is only a bureaucratic fact, not very important for contemporaries, this master of the Paris school, nevertheless, has long taken his place in the history of art.

But the glory of fellow countrymen – L. Bakst, M. Chagall, X. Soutine – for a long time overshadowed him, no doubt, talented, but much more modest work. His Vitebsk brother Mark Chagall, the French government built a personal museum, a list of books about his old friend Chaim Soutine, the only artist of the Paris School, awarded a monument in Paris, has more than a hundred titles; The names of Michael Kikoin, Pinchus (Paul) Kremen, as well as Osin Lubich, I of Prague, Faibish (Sam) Zarfin, Israel Levin, Evgeny Zak are known in the post-Soviet space, perhaps only to art experts. At the same time in the West they have long been recognized, their works are in the largest museums in the world and are exhibited today not only at exhibitions dedicated to Ecole de Paris.
The grandson of Rabbi Michael Kikoin was born in 1892 in a small town of Rechitsa, one of the centers of Hasidism in Belarus, with a ten thousandth population then, more than half of whom were Jews. At the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, most artists from Jewish families living on the periphery of the Russian Empire sought to leave their native places in order to continue their studies at the faunas after receiving an initial art education. At admission to special art institutions of the Russian Empire for the Jews there was a qualification, the way to the capitals was closed by the Pale of Settlement, and only units (such as Leo Bakst) were lucky to enter the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts.

Mikhail Kikoin

M. Kikoin. Playing girl. 1934. H., m. 100 × 81 cm.

The talent for drawing from the son of the director of the bank has manifested itself since childhood, and the parents identified the boy in Minsk as a private art school, transformed from the “Course of Drawing and Painting”. The head of this institution, which existed from 1906 to 1914, was 51kov Markovich Kruger (1869-1940), a professional of European level, who studied at the time in the Kiev Drawing School N. Murashko, and then in Petersburg at the Academy of Arts at K. Makovsky. For seven years (1888-1895) he lived and improved in Paris, and, of course, the names and works of the first European artists, as well as the general picture of the bustling overseas life, were well known to him. Even before entering the school, Kikoin studied at the commercial school and, in parallel, took private lessons from Kruger. In the walls of the art school, where Kikoin was enrolled in 1908, a friendship with Chaim Soutin began-a poor, downtrodden and most shy of fellow practitioners, a puny teenager with a hunted gaze, whose works will be dreamed of by the best museums in the world in a few dozen years. After the end of the Minsk school, friends will move to Vilno.
The Vilna Drawing School was recognized in 1904 as the best in Russia. It was headed by a famous and gifted teacher Ivan Petrovich Trutnev (1827-1912). He graduated from the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts with the Golden Medal, he himself first of all brought up students in the spirit of academicism, but young teachers were allowed to acquaint them with the principles of contemporary art. It was at the initiative of the teachers of the Trutnev School that the Vilnius Art Society was established in 1908, which organized “spring exhibitions” for seven years, to which work was sent from Moscow, Petersburg, Warsaw and even Paris and Munich. This means that both Kikoin and Soutine had every opportunity to go through not only thorough professional training, but also get an idea of ​​avant-garde art. But all this will happen later, but for the time being in Vilna, the three comrades diligently attend classes in drawing and drawing, they learn how to work in an open air, go to a local theater, where a familiar kapeldiner lets them sometimes free of charge. Kikoin and Soutine are also working as retouchers for the photographer. And all together they rave Paris. Here is how Kikoin himself described them at that time from March 11: “We settled at the good-natured lame wife-wife of a railwayman in a room with six beds, 15 kopecks per student. She was expecting us any time of the day and night with a boiling samovar, I remember how we left the school in small groups. Spanked through the dirt with our holey galoshes, splashing indifferent passers-by, and fervently argued about art, life and especially about the future. Sutin’s coveted imagination drove him far. And soon Paris took the main place in his dreams. ” True, the idea of ​​the world capital of the arts was very vague for them. They never talked about Montparnasse, only about the “Hive”, since Kremen, who will go to Paris in 1912 first, there lived friends, “came from Russia, descended to the platform of the Eastern Station, without knowing a word of French, and three rubles were my entire capital … “. A little later, Kikoin will come. Soutine will reunite with his friends in six to eight months, in the summer of 1913, and very soon declare: “… if we do nothing in a city like Paris, then we really are not capable of anything.”

Mikhail Kikoin

M. Kikoin. Figures on a winding road. H., m. 37 × 45 cm Private collection, USA

Kikoin initially settled with his cousin Joseph and immediately began to work. In the museum of Petit Palais, his first works of this period “Beehive under the snow” (1913-1914) and “Issy-le-Mulino” (1915) are stored. The largest expert in the Paris school, the author of the first in Russia fundamental monograph on H. Soutine M. K). Herman describes these works in the following way: “In the first landscape, through the natural and in its own way the poetic eclecticism of the beginner (here and the undoubted influence of Pissarro’s winter landscapes, and the lessons of the Cezanne space building), one can see his own direct and exact vision of nature, lyricism fused with the acquired pictorial culture, the ability to make plans in a narrowed and noble chromatic range. “Issi-le-Mulino” -more evidence of very personally perceived lessons of pointillism, and even more so of -favism, synthesized with almost cubic faceting of bright color planes. The confidence of the drawing, the ability to generalize, simplify the line or plans, of course, are rooted in solid traditional knowledge. ”
Over time, the creativity of Kikoin, like many of his colleagues, will inevitably affect the powerful influence of Soutine. Borrowed from a friend-genius, the manner will be especially evident in canvases with movable strokes, deformed space, in quaint landscapes with “falling” houses and trees. But the memories of another “Russian Parisian”, a former Odessa citizen, a pupil of Kyriak Kostandi, who shared in the “Hive” a workshop with Chagall, Amshey Nyurenberg, in the 1920s. already many wrote “under Soutine”. In the salons in a large number of paintings began to appear in a manner more recently unknown to the artist, open to the world American millionaire Barnes in 1923, friendship with Soutine Kikoin will save until the end of life. He had the opportunity to observe the work of his obsessive friend in both the Hive and Sere, where they worked together, and, together with lack of money, bought materials for their paintings. For all, at first glance, the similarity of style landscapes and still lifes of Kikoin will be distinguished by a softer color scheme and carefully thought-out composition.
What does the young Mikhail Kikoin look like in the photos of that burrow? A pince-nez, wavy hair, a thoughtful and slightly mocking look, a bohemian bow around his neck. Maria Vorobieva-Stebelska, a Russian artist of the Paris school, more known under the pseudonym Marevna, wrote in her memoirs: “I remember Kikoin forever smiling or laughing, as uncontrollable as his captivating works …” 8 However, then Diego Rivera’s wife, sympathy for Michel Kikoin, never immortalized him in his most famous painting “My friends from Montparnasse”, where on one “penny” a fellow Sutin, Modigliani, Kisling, Picasso, I found a friend, and others.

Mikhail Kikoin

M. Kikoin. View of the village of Anne. 1930. H., m. 60 × 73 cm. Collection of the Michel Kikoin Foundation

In 1914, Kikoin marries Rosa Bunimovich, with whom he was acquainted with the school years in Vilna, along with Sutin will volunteer for the French “labor army” for digging trenches and in the same year will exhibit his works in the Salon of Independent. Experiencing in those years of constant need, they were forced to unload Sutin at night at the Montparnasse train station to earn bread and paint, and in the afternoon ran into the studio of the veteran of French realism, Fernand Cormona, training in which at various times passed Toulouse-Lautrec , Van Gogh, Norisov-Musatov, Roerich. The Bolshevik coup in Russia will forever deprive him of the opportunity to return to his homeland. Because of the “Iron Curtain”, he never once saw his cousin Isaac Kikoin, a secret physicist, academician
Academy of Sciences of the USSR, a scientist who worked on the Soviet “atomic project”, whose name is familiar to many by the school textbook of physics.
In France, his two children were born-in 1915, daughter of Claire, in 1920 the son of Jacques (Yankel). In 1924, the artist will finally receive French citizenship. And after four years of his work, which by that time have already been successfully sold in the Paris galleries and salons, will be shown in Moscow at the exhibition “Contemporary French Art”. Half of the exposition of the Russian department was then the work of “Russian Parisians”: Yuri Annenkov, Alexander Yakovlev and Vasily Shukhaev, Natasha Goncharova and Mikhail Larionov, Pavel Kremen, Jacques Lipschitz, Mane-Katz, Oskar Meshchaninov, Abram Minchin, Khana Orlova, Ivan Puni, Adolf Fedor, Osip Tsadkin (Soutine’s paintings were not included in the exhibition because of disagreements between several marchers who owned them). Among the works of these artists were presented Kikoin undated “Landscape”, “Portrait of a Son” and “Man’s Head.” The authoritative critic Abraham Efros, who took part in the selection of the exhibits in Paris, in an article for Kramen, Kikoin and Epstein, written for the Russian Group catalog, refers to the masters of Sutin’s orbit, and their paintings, perhaps even somewhat subjectively, will be called “picturesque painting” ( because of the manner of putting on the canvas a large scarlet colorful “test”).
Before the Second World War, Kikoin was successfully exhibited in the galleries “Zborovsky”, “Bernheim”, “Billiet-Worms” and “Ersid”, in the New York gallery “Brummer”, at the exhibition “Ecole cle Paris” in the gallery “S. Lesnik “in Paris, and in the early 1920s, his solo exhibitions were held in the galleries” Celebr “and” Netter “. In 1933, he moved to his own workshop in Montparnasse. During the German occupation, the artist, along with his wife and children, was in a concentration camp. From the inevitable death of them saved the rebellion by Allied forces.

Mikhail Kikoin

M. Kikoin. Portrait of Claire. 1953. H., m. 35 × 27 cm.

After the war, Michelle Kikoin travels extensively in Europe, in the 1950s. visits Spain, Italy and three times Israel. For half a century Kikoin wrote more than two and a half thousand pictures, a year before his death, he will complete the portrait of Soutine. The heart of Michael Kikoin stopped at the 77th year of life in a summer villa in Cannes. His son Yankel will continue the work of his father. A well-known geologist, he will begin collecting paintings at a mature age, and then paint. Jacques Kikoin had solo exhibitions in Paris, Israel and Amsterdam, he taught at the art academy. The daughter of Claire (Claire Maratier-Kikoine) will create a foundation named after Michael Kikoin and will establish a scholarship, which in Israel once every two years encourages gifted artists. In 2004, a permanent exhibition of Kikoin’s works, donated by his daughter, was opened in the Tel Aviv University Art Gallery. There is among them a portrait of the young Claire, written by his father in 1953, which itself is already a rarity, as in the genre of the portrait, he almost did not work.
Despite the undeniable recognition, it is still believed that Mikhail Kikoin, like Ninhus Kremen, remained in the shadow of his friend Soutine, whose museum has already been created in his native Smilovichi. Marevna, for example, convinced that their work deserves more recognition, once exclaimed: “What a pity that two such talented artists, like Kikoin and Kremen, eclipsed the genius of their compatriot!”
And yet it is not by chance that among the many masters of the Paris school, both Kikoin and Kremen are called today its bright representatives. And let the works of Mikhail Kikoin not be price records at auctions (the most expensive of his paintings, “Reclining”, sold in 2007 for € 80,000), to challenge the undoubted talent of this painter is meaningless. And it is remarkable that among his fellow countrymen there were those who seek to revive and preserve the memory of the artist, perhaps still undervalued, but born in their land and received here the first lessons of painting, a master who left a notable mark in European art and already only this glorified his a small homeland. It is better and more correct than to engage in humiliation of the artist, accuse him of non-preservation of national identity and reject it only because he became a “cosmopolitan” …