Pinchus Krémègne

(1890 - 1981)


Pinchus Krémègne was the youngest of nine children. His father was a craftsman. Between 1909 and 1912, he studied at the Vilnius School of Art, where he became friends with Michael Kikoïne and Chaim Soutine. In 1912, he was the first of the three to leave for Paris. Having embarked on his career as a sculptor, after 1915 he concentrated on painting. In 1918, charmed by the landscapes of the south of France, he took a studio in the town of Céret. Together with Jacques Lipchitz and Ossip Zadkine, he took part in exhibitions held by several groups of artists who had left Russia, such as Blow (Удар), Through (Через), Numbers (Числа) and Our Union (Наш Союз), and had reproductions of his works printed in their magazines. When the Second World War broke out, he sent his wife and son to Switzerland; but he stayed in France, and spent the war in hiding in the ‘free zone’. After the war, he and his family lived in Paris and Céret.


Krémègne spent 15 years (1912 to 1927) at La Ruche, and had a major influence on the artistic aesthetics of the École de Paris. He geometricised the amorphous forms that were infiltrating French Expressionism, and supplemented a palette of colours that was abundant with nuances with a play of colours that was characteristic of Fauvism. Skilful compositions, which from time to time ended up being overloaded with detail, dissonant combinations of colours that destroy the entire space, and extremely emotional brushstrokes, are highly characteristic of his forms of expression. To him, a painting was a symphony of spots of colour, the sound of which excites the viewer and results in aesthetic satisfaction. ‘I organise my canvases in the same way that a conductor organises an orchestra. Each colour is an instrument that has its own part to play’ (P. Krémègne, 1993, René Huyghe, Jean Miller, Krémègne 1890–1981, 6).

Krémègne drew from nature, and adored attending plein-air sessions at picturesque sites in France or Sweden, where his wife came from. His landscapes showing different seasons of the year and different times of day boast extremely varied colours and moods. He created his still-lifes by following the principles of landscape painting, placing apples, bowls and vases of flowers horizontally on the surface of a table. However, in Still Life with Chair and Violin, he breaks the traditional rules of composition, and uses a chair instead of a table. In doing so, he breaks the solid line of the horizon. Instead of trying to reproduce an external resemblance, his portraits convey the inner state of a human being. His female nudes are a surprising contrast with his paintings that celebrate the beauty of nature. Passionate female nude bodies are painted coarsely in pink, blue and green, and are far from being an ideal of beauty. They form a sharp contrast with his harmonious landscapes and still-lifes. In 1914, he painted a picture that stands out from the rest of his work in terms of its theme. It is called A Character in the Forest, and depicts women with horns dressed in red. In order to convey their womanly nature, he borrowed a devilish goat-like creature from The Black Paintings by Francisco Goya.

Most works by Krémègne are in France. All the big museums in the world, and the most famous private galleries and collectors, have some of his paintings.


Information source:

Litvak Art in Private Lithuanian Collections. Compiler Gradinskaite, V. (2015). Vilnius: Lewben Art Foundation