(Vidin – BULGARIE, 1885 – Paris, 1930)
Jules Pascin, real name Juluis Mordecai Pincas, was the son of a wealthy merchant of Vidin, Bulgaria. Following his stormy relationship with a brothel madam, his father forced him to change his name. He thus decided to be addressed as Julius Pascin.
He was educated at the Art schools of Budapest and Vienna. During his early career as an artist, he collaborated with a German satirical magazine where his erotic drawings and caricatures gave him a certain notoriety. Around that time, he met the artists who were to found the German Expressionist movement, with whom he managed to find his own orientation and graphical style, marked by a strong critique of society. A major part of his work did moreover continue to be marked by the latter sensibility and satiric force.
Following a series of travels that led him to Vienna, Munich and Berlin, Pascin finally decided to try his chance in Paris in 1905. There, he formed strong friendships with front-line French artists from the neighburhoods of Montmartre or Montparnasse, including Foujita, Kisling, Soutine, Van Dongen, Derain, Diego Rivera, as well as Matisse and the Fauvists.
His subjects of choice focus on the scenes of daily life and more especially on the female body and erotic compositions. He asked: “Why is a woman considered less obscene from the back than from the front? Why are breasts, navels and pubis nowadays still considered as indecent, where does this censorship and hypocrisy come from? From religion?”
Jules Pascin is part of the School of Paris, which was André Warnod’s expression to designate the group of artists, including many foreigners, that arrived in Paris in the 1920s to find more suitable conditions for the expression of their art, while at the same time remaining outside the pictorial movements of pre-war years.
It is incidentally these avant-gardes – who blew figuration and representation in painting to pieces – that led Pascin, just like Modigliani, to question the meaning of his own figurative work. Doubts submerged him. He suffered from his loss of reputation, and felt he was losing the meaning, sensibility and power that he always aimed to give to his paintings.
He thus foundered and gradually lost himself in escapism, parties and alcohol. His last letter, written to his partner Lucy, said: “I am a pimp, I am tired of being a pander of painting… I have no more ambition, nor artistic pride, I do not care about money, I have wasted too much time noting the uselessness of everything in too much detail.” He eventually killed himself on the 2nd of June 1930, at the age of forty-five.