Abraham Mintchine

1898–1931

Artist biography

Abraham Mintchine 1898-1931

School of Paris painter of landscapes, portraits and still life. Born at Kiev in Russia. Apprenticed to a goldsmith at the age of thirteen as an engraver, but soon afterwards also began to paint. Left Russia in 1923 and went to Berlin, where in 1925 he exhibited some paintings in a Cubist manner, and designed sets and costumes for the Jewish theatre in Palestine. Moved to Paris, penniless, in 1926 and joined the group of emigré Russian and Polish artists of Jewish origin already working there, Soutine, Kremegne, Kikoine and others. All his surviving work dates from these last six years, 1926-31. First one-man exhibition at the Galerie Alice Manteau, Paris, 1929. Worked much in Provence, especially from 1929 onwards, in contact with Othon Friesz. Died at La Garde, near Toulon.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.523

Wikipedia entry

Abraham Mintchine (4 April 1898 – 25 April 1931) was one of the major painters associated to the artists' circle known as Jewish School of Paris.

Mintchine was jewish and immigrated from Ukraine to Paris in 1925. His known artwork was produced mostly while in Paris and la Garde, between 1926 and 1931. He is known for vibrant paintings where mysticism is also often present. His work can be related to expressionism, although as highlighted by Giovanni Testori, these categories which are convenient in art history are often too narrow to characterise painters like Mintchine.

Mintchine was born in Kyiv where at age 13 he was an apprenticed to a goldsmith. He began painting from the age of 16 and studied at the Kyiv Art College (together with Josyf Weissblatt, Olexandr Tyshler) and at Olexandra Exter. Later he left Ukraine for Berlin in 1923. In Berlin he designed sets and costumes for the Jewish theatre. At the time of his first exhibition in Berlin he displayed artwork in a style close to Cubism (only one painting from this period is known).

Mintchine's most prolific and self-defining period started when he arrived in Paris around 1925. There he developed an exalted style, through dense and vibrant compositions. Mintchine's life was not easy. In extreme poverty and married with a child, he nonetheless succeeded to develop a very characteristic style. On a number of occasions, Mintchine integrates mysticism in his compositions (often representations of Angels or angelic elements such as wings).

Later, in 1929, the art dealer René Gimpel identified Mintchine as a "genius" painter and start buying all his paintings. About Mintchine's condition, he wrote in his journal: "he barely managed to scrape a 100 sous to live on; he wouldn't eat, and, dying of hunger would say to his wife: 'Eat, Mintchine isn't hungry'."

Mintchine's art reflects an exceptional intensity. His artwork is less tormented than Soutine's, conveying passion through great poetry (often with the addition of mystical elements). Mintchine's life was short but very prolific. Suffering from tubercolosis, he died at only 33 of a brain aneurysm (or possibly heart attack) while painting The Hill with Red Flowers (La Garde,1931).

Due to his death at a young age his artwork is generally rarer than others from the same period. While several signed counterfeits have emerged more recently, many of his artworks have been published by Massimo Di Veroli who continues to authenticate it. Abraham Mintchine’s artwork is present in collections of major Museums and galleries, including Tate.

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