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 Georges (Jiri Karpeles) Kars  (1882 - 1945)



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Lived/Active: Czech Republic/France/Spain/Switzerland      Known for: modernist easel painting-portrait, drawings

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Ad Code: 3
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Reiter und Flaneure im Park
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

George Kars was a noted painter of the School of Paris, and part of the circle of Montparnasse.  He was a colleague of Paul Klee, Juan Gris and Maurice Utrillo.  He was educated at the Prague School and the Munich Academy.

Kars was born Jiri Karpeles to parents of German origin just outside of Prague, Czechoslavakia.  Taking a very early interest in drawing, he frequented a certain Lheman painting gallery at the end of his school days.  He attended the Salons of Prague and took painting courses before leaving in 1899 for the Munich Academy where he studied with Franz von Stuck and became friends with Jules Pascin, Paul Klee, and Rudolf Lévy.

Between 1905 and 1907, he travelled via Prague to settle in Madrid, Spain, where he met Juan Gris and absorbed the painting style of Diego Vélasquez and Francisco Goya.  Gris proved to be an important influence on his early work.  In 1908, Kars arrived in Paris and settled in Montmartre, meeting Suzanne Valadon and Maurice Utrillo.  He remained a close friend of them, having frequently painted their portraits.

Prior to his move to Paris his work was Impressionistic in style, but while in Paris, Kars was mainly influenced by Cubism, though his work espoused traditional analysis of themes through the use of drawings, pastels, and oil paintings: landscapes, cityscapes, still-life compositions, nudes and portraits.  He renewed his friendship with Pascin and frequented Chagall, Apollinaire, Max Jacob, the art critic Maurice Raynal and the Greek painter Demetrius Galanis. He spent the First World War in Belgium with Pascin, and later went back to Prague, and only returned to Paris in 1919. 

Kars exhibited his work at the Salon d'Automne and the Salon des Tuileries.

Kars spent the summer of 1923 with Suzanne Valadon’s family in the Ségalas region of the Bas-Pyrenees.  His style evolved towards simplicity of form through his contact with Paris and with Cubism, but he remained deeply attached to realism.  He used India ink, watercolour and pastel in his work.  In 1933, Kars bought a home in Tossa de Mar in Catalonia where he lived for three years.  He returned to Paris and settled in rue Caulaincourt.  In 1939, when the Nazis eventually entered Paris, he took refuge in Lyon, which was not yet occupied, and Kars held two exhibitions there.

The paintings he made during this stay are now in the Lyon Art Museum.  In Dec.1942 he moved to the safety of his sister’s home in Geneva, Switzerland.  He made a large number of drawings and paintings depicting refugees seeking shelter during this time.  In 1945, he committed suicide after hearing about the fate of his own family in Czechoslovakia.

In November and December 1945, a major exhibition was held in Paris in his memory.  In 1966, the contents of his atelier were auctioned at the Palais Galleria. In 1983, Modern Art Museum of Troyes, France staged a Kars retrospective and exhibited 120 of his works.  His work is found in a number of important collections, including museums in Cologne, Prague, Vienna, Los Angeles, Hamburg, Hanover, Grenobles, and Tel Aviv.

Submitted June, 2007 by Mike and Julie Wied.  Their sources are the Jewish Museum of Prague (Zidovske Mukseum V Praze); La Vie et L'oeuvre de Georges Kars, biography by Joseph Jolinon; and Circle of Montparnasse by Romy Golan and Ken Silver


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