1890 - 1981
Lithuanian, 20th century, male.
Active in France from 1912.
Born 21 July 1890, in Zaloudock, near Vilnius; died 5 April 1981, in Céret, France.
Painter. Figures, portraits, nudes, interiors, landscapes, waterscapes, village views, still-lifes (including flowers).
Pinchus Kremegne knew Soutine and Kikoine, whom he met at the school of fine art in Vilnius, where he trained from 1909. He arrived in Paris in 1912, one year before Soutine. Kremegne started as a sculptor but devoted himself to painting from 1915 onwards. He lived in the famous Vaugirard building, known as ‘La Ruche’ (The Beehive) because of its shape; with Soutine he discovered the Louvre, works of the Impressionists and the Fauves and the Cubists. In Montparnasse he made friends with Chagall and Léger; Modigliani painted his portrait. After spending time in Scandinavia in 1927, he took frequent trips, to Corsica, Provence, Touraine, Roussillon and to Israel. During World War II and the German occupation, Kremegne, a Jew, had to hide in the Corrèze region in central France and was unable to paint. On his return to Paris, he did not regain his former public recognition, particularly since he became withdrawn.
After the hesitations of his training years and a few paintings with a Symbolist trend, Kremegne sought inspiration in Van Gogh and Cézanne in order to attempt a synthesis of them in his paintings of impassive forms, fossilized figures, sleepy landscapes and silent still-lifes. Around 1915, he painted a few canvases characteristic of this dual influence: Woman Seated painted with cross strokes, Little Still-life with Lamp, Geraniums, Still-life with Herrings, Woman in an Armchair (1917), which reveals the same haunting absence as some of Cézanne’s portraits. Around 1916, influenced by Derain and Vlaminck, Kremegne painted a series of Red Nudes, the graphics of which were as vehement as the Fauvist colouring. A few landscapes and still-lifes also belong to this red period. Kremegne shared Cézanne’s admiration for El Greco; to this influence can be attributed the Portrait of a Man in profile (1923), as well as light still-lifes, which he only started painting in 1930. He brought back strong portraits of peasant farmers from his trip to Scandinavia in 1927. During this period, Kremegne spent time on several occasions in Cagnes-sur-Mer. This time, known as his Provençal period, is like a serene spell in his life: he inundated with a frenzy of colour the happy landscapes over which Renoir had travelled. From 1920, but particularly from 1924 onwards, Kremegne painted large still-lifes, which constituted an important part of his production until 1939: Violin with Red Case (1925). He brought back landscapes from his trips: Landscape in Touraine (1953), Old Bridge in Céret (1955), Turret in Noyère (1957), Trees in Céret (1959). Having reached the height of his ability, he continued executing a few portraits, such as his Self-portrait (1953), a few interiors and particularly those solid still-lifes that assured him his place in the Paris School among the artists of his generation.
Even when he was introducing plucked fowl or hunting trophies into his still-lifes, Kremegne moved away from the sense of the tragic. For Kremegne, painting was primarily a ‘plastic expression’, to adopt Cézanne’s term, and the subject of the painting merely a pretext, as in Still-life with Brioche (1928) or even more clearly in Still-life with Dish of Rare Meat (1930). Kremegne attributed equal importance to each tiny object present in the composition, to each tiny fragment of painted surface. As his career continued, he joined the painters of Central Europe, who introduced an Expressionist element into the Paris School.
Kremegne exhibited mainly in the Paris Salons: Salon des Indépendants, as a sculptor (1913); Salon d’Automne; Salon des Tuileries. Solo exhibitions include Paris (regularly from 1923), London and Philadelphia. The Galerie Aittouarès, Paris, organised an exhibition of all of his paintings in 1998.Pinchus