1880 - 1956
Nathan GRUNZWEIG (spelling of his birth name) was born in Krakow on April 2, 1880, to an accountant father. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Wolanka, in the Drohobych district of present-day Ukraine, probably to find better income there, as development related to oil drilling attracted a mosaic of nationalities. But new legislation granting oil exploration only to landowners drove out the small operators.
The family returned to Krakow and then moved to Antwerp in 1893, where Nathan’s father was registered as a diamond merchant. Thirteen-year-old Nathan enrolled in drawing and painting classes at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and exhibited in 1908 at the Maison de Sion. But it is likely that he organized his first exhibition in Brussels in 1906, according to the mention he made on the reverse of a painting by spelling his name Grunsweigh.
And then, in 1908, it was Paris, a beacon of artists who flocked from all over the world. His two children, David and Adéline (Rébecca), were born there in 1912 and 1913, after his marriage to Fanny Edinger, originally from Alsace. The family probably spent the period of the First World War in Amsterdam, where their youngest son, Daniel, was born in 1914. Very few paintings from this period have survived. They show the painter’s inclination for artistic experimentation and his mastery of different currents.The family returned to Paris in the 1920s and settled in the inner suburbs, in the pretty town of Vésinet.
Maurice Utrillo, who revived the art of landscape as a new modernity, captivated Grunsweigh with his views of Montmartre.
The latter began to travel through Paris and its suburbs , planting his easel to sketch the streets, crossroads, squares, boulevards.
In 1924, the new Pierre gallery run by Pierre Loeb (who would become one of the great promoters of surrealism), hosted a personal exhibition Grunsweigh, in collaboration with the poet Gustave Kahn, whom Grunsweigh admired, just after the inaugural one by Jules Pascin. There were landscapes and still lifes with precise, firm, linear outlines, in the vein of Utrillo, all hailed by critics, as by Gustave Kahn in the preface to the catalog, or by Florent Fels: “His works, beautiful and nuanced, depict suburban streets, the little gardens of the Parisian suburbs, and landscapes where town and country seem to be vying for supremacy. This is where he lives, in a small house, in a sad street. In the morning, people go to work in Paris and the streets empty. In the evening the silhouettes return by train, and so on. There is no joy here. Yet Grunsweigh is a conscientious and simple man and sometimes, a flash of gray , a charming silvery gray shimmers in its melancholy images, like the glow of a pearl”.
Hailed by critics as a landscape painter, he exhibited in 1925 at the Galerie de la Maison Blanc, alongside Utrillo and other landscape painters. He even exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in 1926 a painting treated in the style of Naïve art, which he entitled Le paysagiste, which represents an artist (probably a self-portrait), oversized, painting in a street, under the gaze of passers-by.
Gustave Kahn loves his still lifes. In 1925, he wrote in Le Mercure de France: “… they are curious, composed with the greatest precision, almost in a straight line, animated by a charming color”. The firmness of the contours, the colors used reveal a subtle influence of the art of Paul Cézanne. There are a number of cubist motifs reinterpreted by the artist, such as a typographic element or the use of multiple perspectives within a frame to make the painted space unreal. The flat plane of a table spans the entire