Julius Mordecai Pincas, (March 31, 1885 – June 5, 1930) known as Pascin (pronounced pass-keen), Jules Pascin, or the "Prince of Montparnasse", was born in Bulgaria. During World War I, he worked in the United States. He is best known as a painter in Paris, where he was strongly identified with the Modernist movement and the artistic circles of Montparnasse. Having struggled with depression and alcoholism, he committed suicide at the age of 45.
Julius Mordecai Pincas was born in Vidin, Bulgaria, to a Sephardic Jewish family of a grain merchant Marcus Pincas. The Pincas family of grain merchants (originally from Ruse) were one of the wealthiest in Vidin; they bought and exported corn, rice, maize and sunflower. His mother, Sofie (Sophie) Pincas, belonged to a Sephardic family Russo, which had moved from Trieste to Zemun, where she and her husband lived prior to moving to Vidin and where their older children were born. The family spoke Judaeo-Spanish at home. In 1892, he moved with parents to Bucharest, where his father opened a company "Marcus Pincas & Co". His early artistic training was in Vienna and Munich. At the age of 20 in 1905, he adopted the pseudonym Pascin (an anagram of Pincas). About the same time, he began contributing drawings to Simplicissimus, a satirical magazine published in Munich.
In December 1905 Pascin moved to Paris, becoming part of the great migration of artists to that city at the start of the 20th century. In 1907 Pascin met Hermine Lionette Cartan David, also a painter, and they became lovers. They lived together until Pascin left for the United States on October 3, 1914, after the beginning of World War I. A few weeks later on October 31, Hermine David sailed for the United States to join Pascin.
Pascin and David lived in the United States from 1914 to 1920, sitting out World War I. He taught at the Telfair Academy in Savannah, Georgia, associated with the Telfair Art Museum. He and David painted in New York City, where she had an exhibit, as well as in Miami, New Orleans and Cuba.
Pascin married Hermine David at City Hall in New York City. The witnesses were Max Weber and Maurice Sterne, friends and painters who both lived in New York. Pascin became a naturalized United States citizen.
Especially after he returned to France, he became the symbol of the Montparnasse artistic community and is more associated with France than the US. Always in his bowler hat, he was a witty presence, along with his good friend Constant Detré, at Le Dôme Café, Le Jockey Club, and the other haunts of the area’s bohemian society. Pascin made visits to Bulgaria in 1923/1924 and at an uncertain later date.
Despite his social life, Pascin created thousands of watercolors and sketches, plus drawings and caricatures, which he sold to various newspapers and magazines. He studied the art of drawing at the Académie Colarossi and, like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, he drew upon his surroundings and his friends, both male and female, as subjects. He wanted to become a serious painter, but in time he became deeply depressed over his inability to achieve critical success with his efforts.
During the 1920s, Pascin mostly painted fragile petites filles, prostitutes waiting for clients, or models waiting for the sitting to end. His fleetingly rendered paintings sold readily, but the money he made was quickly spent. Famous as the host of numerous large parties in his flat, whenever he was invited elsewhere for dinner, he arrived with as many bottles of wine as he could carry. He frequently led a large group of friends on summer picnics beside the River Marne, where their excursions lasted all afternoon.
According to his biographer, Georges Charensol,
"Scarcely had he chosen his table at the Dôme or the Sélect than he would be surrounded by five or six friends; at nine o'clock, when we got up to dinner, we would be 20 in all, and later in the evening, when we decided to go up to Montmartre to Charlotte Gardelle's or the Princess Marfa's—where Pascin loved to take the place of the drummer in the jazz band—he had to provide for 10 taxis."
Ernest Hemingway's chapter titled "With Pascin At the Dôme", in A Moveable Feast, recounted a night in 1923 when he had stopped off at Le Dôme and met Pascin escorted by two models. Hemingway's portrayal of the evening is considered one of the defining images of Montparnasse at the time.
Pascin struggled with depression and alcoholism. "[D]riven to the wall by his own legend", according to art critic Gaston Diehl, he committed suicide at the age of 45 on the eve of a prestigious solo show. He slit his wrists and hanged himself in his studio in Montmartre. On the wall he left a message written in blood, to a former lover, Cecile (Lucy) Vidil Krohg. In his last will and testament, Pascin left his estate equally to his wife, Hermine David, and his mistress Lucy Krohg.
On the day of Pascin’s funeral, June 7, 1930, thousands of acquaintances from the artistic community along with dozens of waiters and bartenders from the restaurants and saloons Pascin had frequented, all dressed in black, walked behind his coffin the three miles from his studio at 36 boulevard de Clichy to the Cimetière de Saint-Ouen. A year later, Pascin's family had his remains reinterred at the more prestigious Cimetière de Montparnasse.
- According to Max Weber, this was Pascin's own pronunciation
- Biography of Jules Pascin
- Alfred Werner "Jules Pascin in the New World"
- Interview with Mayer Alhalel (Vidin)
- Sephardic marriages in Vienna: February 1901 — Abraham Alfred Yerocham of Plovdiv (son of Menachem and Sol Yerocham) and Rebecca Pincas of Zemun (daughter of Marcus and Sofie Pincas).
- Ilya Ehrenburg about Jules Pascin (People, Years, Life: memoires)
- According to Alfred Werner, "he never added his first name, even in its French form. His suicide note is signed 'Jules Pincas dit Pascin.' ", Werner, 1972, p. vii
- "Art in Georgia from 1895 to 1960", New Georgia Encyclopedia, accessed 8 Jul 2010
- Official site of Painter Constant Detré
- Diehl 1968, p. 78
- This will was contested by Pascin's estranged family through Pascin's brother, Joseph Pincas. The three parties ultimately agreed to share the estate.
- Georges Charensol, Jules Pascin (1928). Jules Pascin. Collection "Les Artistes Juifs". Paris: Éditions "Le Triangle".
- Diehl, Gaston (1968). Pascin. New York: Crown. OCLC 74469
- Werner, Alfred (1972). Pascin: 110 Drawings. New York: Dover. ISBN 0-486-20299-2
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