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Léon Zack

1892 - 1980

1892 — 1980

Emigrant artist, poet, sculptor, theoretician and ideologist of egofuturism, graphic artist, scene designer, representative of the Paris school art movement.

In 1902-19011 Zack went to the Moscow gymnasium of the Lazarev Institure of Eastern Languages, and graduated with honours. One of his coursemates was R.Jacobson, the future well-known linguist. 

In 1911-1916 he studied at the department of Roman and German philology of the History and Philology faculty of the MSU.

His first painting lessons were given to Zack by the Moscow artist A.Yakimchenko, later Zack attended art studios of F.Rerberg and I.Mashkov.

Zack took part in the exhibitions of the Moscow Artists Fellowship (yearly in 1908-1912 and later in 1916 and in 1917) and of the World of Art («Mir Iskusstva») art society. He created vignettes for The Golden Fleece («Zolotoe Runo») magazine (1909) and a publisher’s stamp for the Petersburg Herald publishing house.

Since the 1910s Zack entered the so called futurism period. He became a member of thePoetry Mezzanine literary group. He illustrated the covers of the poetry books by the group’s members – R.Ivnev and V.Shershenevich, as well as the futurist almanacs Zasakhare kry, Vernissage, A Feast in Time of Plague (1913). The latter two books and the The crematorium of sanity almanac included some of Zack’s poems, published under a name Chrisanf. Zack was avant-garde in his literary activities and one of the first began to elaborate the accentual verse.

After the revolution Zack emigrated. He lived in Constantinople, Rome, Florence and Berlin. In Berlin he worked as scene designer and participated in exhibitions at the Alfred Flechtheim gallery (1922 and 1923) and at the Russian publication Zarya shop (January 1923). He created lithographs for the Russian editions of A Feast in Time of Plague by Alexander Pushkin (1923) and La Mandragora by Nicola Machiavelli (1924).

Having settled in Paris in 1924 Zack exhibited his works at the Autumn salon and the Salon des Indépendants (since 1924), in the Percier gallery (1925, personal exhibition in 1927), the T.Carmine gallery (1925), gallery of Contemporary Art (1925). He was a member of the action group which formed the professional society of Russian artists in France called the Russian Artistic Guild. In 1929 Zack was one of the founders of the Salon des Surindépendants.

In 1928 he held a personal exhibition at the Manteau gallery in Brussels and signed a long-term contract with it’s owners. Simultaneously he continued to illustrate books, work as scene designer, create textile ornaments and make glass sculptures.

In 1930 he joined the neohumanist group and later the abstract expressionists, moving further away from figurative art. 

He demonstrated his first geometric abstraction in 1948 at the exhibition at the Paris Odette des Garets gallery. He continued to create abstract geometric compositions. Later, along other French artists of his time, Zack became interested in lyrical abstraction. He held personal exhibitions every year. 

In the 1950s he began to work for the church: carved stone, created stained glass, high reliefs, steel and bronze crosses. He restored and decorated the Paris chapels Notre-Dame des Pauvres, Les Petits Frères des Pauvres, Sacré-Cœur cathedral and many other sites. He was fascinated by sculpture and created it together with his daughter, sculptor Irène Zack. He continued to publish poetry. In 1981 after the artist’s death a memorial exhibition was held as part of the Autumn salon. 

His works are included in the collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Paris, Tate gallery in London, the Royal Museum in Brussels, the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburg, of museums in Nantes, Antwerpen, Venice.