Jules Pascin

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Jules Pascin

Julius Mordecai Pincas (March 31, 1885 – June 5, 1930), known as Pascin (pronounced: [pas.kin];[1][2] erroneously French: [pas.kɛ̃] or [pa.sɛ̃]), Jules Pascin, or the "Prince of Montparnasse", was a Bulgarian (later American) artist known for his paintings and drawings. His most frequent subject was women, depicted in casual poses, usually nude or partly dressed.

Pascin was educated in Vienna and Munich, Germany. He traveled for a time in the United States, spending most of his time in the South. He is best known as a painter in Paris, where he associated with the artistic circles of Montparnasse. Having struggled with depression and alcoholism, he committed suicide at the age of 45.

Early life[edit]

Julius Mordecai Pincas was born in Vidin, Bulgaria, to a Sephardic Jewish family of a grain merchant Marcus Pincas.[3][4] 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.[5] 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.[4][6] The family spoke Judaeo-Spanish at home.[7] In 1892, he moved with parents to Bucharest, where his father opened a company, "Marcus Pincas & Co". His first artistic training was in Vienna. In 1903 he relocated to Munich, where he studied in Moritz Heymann's academy.[8] In 1905 he began contributing drawings to Simplicissimus, a satirical magazine published in Munich.[9] Because his father objected to the family name being associated with these drawings,[9] the 20-year-old artist adopted the pseudonym Pascin (an anagram of Pincas).[10]

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 he met Hermine Lionette Cartan David, also a painter, and they became lovers. Despite his social life, Pascin created thousands of watercolors and sketches, plus drawings and caricatures that he sold to various newspapers and magazines. He exhibited his works in commercial galleries and in the Salon d’Automne, the Salon des Indépendants, and the exhibitions of the Berlin Secession.[8] Between 1905 and 1914 he exhibited drawings, watercolors, and prints, but rarely paintings.[11] It was not until ca. 1907–1909 that he produced his first paintings,[12] which were portraits and nudes in a style influenced by Fauvism and Cézanne.[8] He wanted to become a serious painter, but in time he became deeply depressed over his inability to achieve critical success with his efforts. Dissatisfied with his slow progress in the new medium, he studied the art of drawing at the Académie Colarossi, and painted copies after the masters in the Louvre.[13]

To avoid service in the Bulgarian army, 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.

United States[edit]

Les petites américaines (Little American Girls), 1916, oil on canvas, Paris Museum of Jewish Art and History
Hermine in Bed, watercolor

Pascin and David lived in the United States from 1914 to 1920, sitting out World War I. They visited New York City, where David had an exhibit. Pascin frequented nightclubs, and met artists such as Yasuo Kuniyoshi and Guy Pène du Bois,[8] but most of his time in America was spent traveling throughout the South.[14] He also visited Cuba. He made many drawings of street life in Charleston, New Orleans, and other places he visited. Some of his works of 1915–1916 are in a Cubist style which he soon abandoned.[8]

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. In September 1920, Pascin became a naturalized United States citizen, but he returned to Paris soon afterward.[8]

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,[15] 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.


Portrait of Lucy Krohg, ca. 1925, oil and pencil on canvas

Like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pascin drew upon his surroundings and his friends, both male and female, as subjects. 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."[citation needed]

Among Pascin's circle of friends in Paris was Ernest Hemingway, whose memoir A Moveable Feast includes a chapter titled "With Pascin At the Dôme", which recounts a night in 1923 when Hemingway met Pascin and two of his young models for drinks at the café.[16]

Portrait of Mimi Laurent, ca. 1927–28, oil on canvas, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC.


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.[17] 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.[17] In his last will and testament, Pascin left his estate equally to his wife, Hermine David, and his mistress Lucy Krohg.[18]

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.


  1. ^ "[...] Jules Pascin (pronounced Pass-kin, born Pincas, first name unremembered, in Bulgaria of a Spanish-Jewish father and a Serbo-Italian mother)" ("Art: Beauty & the Baker", Time magazine, Monday, July 18, 1932)
  2. ^ "He pronounced his name ‘Pass-keen’, and so did his friends." (John Ulric Nef, "Reminiscences of Jules Pascin" (June 1966), in Tom L. Freudenheim, Pascin (exhibition catalog), University Art Museum, University of California, Berkeley, 1966)
  3. ^ Biography of Jules Pascin
  4. ^ a b Alfred Werner "Jules Pascin in the New World"
  5. ^ Interview with Mayer Alhalel (Vidin)
  6. ^ 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).
  7. ^ Ilya Ehrenburg about Jules Pascin (People, Years, Life: memoires)
  8. ^ a b c d e f Alley and Barlow, Oxford Art Online
  9. ^ a b Dupouy 2014, p. 5
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ Diehl 1968, p. 26.
  12. ^ Diehl 1968, p. 41.
  13. ^ Diehl 1968, pp. 37-41.
  14. ^ Werner 1972, p. x.
  15. ^ Official site of Painter Constant Detré
  16. ^ Lynn, Kenneth Schuyler (1995) Hemingway. Harvard University Press. p. 586. ISBN 0674387325.
  17. ^ a b Diehl 1968, p. 78
  18. ^ This will was contested by Pascin's estranged family through Pascin's brother, Joseph Pincas. The three parties ultimately agreed to share the estate.[citation needed]


  • Alley, Ronald and Margaret Barlow. "Pascin, Jules." Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. Web.
  • Charensol, Georges and Jules Pascin (1928). Jules Pascin. Collection "Les Artistes Juifs". Paris: Éditions "Le Triangle".
  • Diehl, Gaston (1968). Pascin. New York: Crown. OCLC 74469
  • Dupouy, Alexandre (2014). Pascin. Parkstone Press. ISBN 978-1-78310-533-5
  • Werner, Alfred (1972). Pascin: 110 Drawings. New York: Dover. ISBN 0-486-20299-2
  • [1] Encyclopædia Britannica

External links[edit]