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 Simka Simkhovitch  (1893 - 1949)

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Lived/Active: New York/Connecticut / Russian Federation/Ukraine      Known for: genre-narrative, figure, landscape painting

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Simkha Simkhovitch
from Auction House Records.
Russian dance
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:

Simka Simkhovitch was born in Petrograd, Ukraine, on May 21, 1893.  He studied art at the Odessa Art School from age 15 to 20, then continued his education at the Royal Academy of St. Petersburg.  His talent was so highly regarded that, upon graduation in 1918, he was selected by the students to teach drawing and painting at the Royal Academy.  During his time in Russia he won an award from the new Soviet government for a painting on a revolutionary theme.  His works are to this day included in two museums in Petrograd. 

The reasons for his emigration to the United States in 1924 are unclear, but he arrived in New York that year, barely able to speak a word of English.  He started to earn his living by working as an illustrator for the Hollywood film writer, Ernest Pascal.  His work impressed Pascal who introduced him to gallery owner, Marie Sterner, who immediately bought two of his paintings and exhibited his paintings at her gallery.

Commissions soon followed.  His work was exhibited at many museums and galleries and sought by collectors.  Simkhovitch’s paintings were consistently praised by critics in the United States throughout his short American career.  There were times when Simkhovitch, still trying to adjust to a new land and a new life, felt isolated.  Island Beach Ferry shows a group of people, each seemingly absorbed in her own thoughts.  

“He was a thoughtful man, not quick to express an opinion until he felt he had grasped all its dimensions and implications.  This quality and sense of organization are seen in all his work.”  Due to his early death and as a result of his thoughtful, deliberate style, his output was limited.  In a review by Town and Country in December, 1940, the critic stated, “His group pictures have a quality; they are well organized without reminding you of the figure-compositions class; they are straight and life-like without delving into the folky genre which America seems to feel is the answer to Grant Wood.”

During an interview in 1941, Simkhovitch explained how he reconciled his Russian training with his American environment.  “My methods have not changed… though naturally my environment has changed me…My painting has become brighter in the use of colors, more cheerful in subject matter, and lighter in execution…  To my students I emphasize the American scene as it presents itself in daily life.”

In the 1930’s Simkhovitch moved to Connecticut with his wife, the model Elsa Fornel, and their three daughters.  In February, 1949 they purchased a home in Milford, Connecticut with a barn, which was to be his studio.  While moving them in, he became critically ill with pneumonia.  He died two weeks later, on February 25, 1949, without ever having slept in their new home.

The Greenwich Time reviewed Island Beach Ferry on December 5, 1940.  “…The figures are beautifully highlighted by light reflected from Long Island Sound and a welcome sea breeze moves softly through the picture.”

Simkhovitch’s works can be found in Petrograd museums; at the Krakow Museum in Poland; the Whitney Museum in New York; the Worcester Art Museum; and others.

The primary source for the above summary is:
Simka Simkhovitch 1893-1949 Paintings, Janet Marqusee Fine Arts Ltd., 1987.

Compiled and submitted by Steven Wasser www.americanjewishart.com


This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Simka Simkhovitch was born in Petrograd, Russia on May 21, 1893 and studied art at the Royal Academy in Petrograd. After painting for a short time in the new Soviet Republic Simkhovitch emigrated to the United States in 1924 and first settled in New York and later in Greenwich, Connecticut. By the 1930s, his work had been included in major international exhibitions at museums throughout the country. At the Marie Sterner Gallery his work was exhibited amongst renown artists like Bellows, Davies, and Kent.

He was a frequent exhibitor at many national group exhibitions including those at the Carnegie, the P.A.F.A., National Academy, and the Art Institite of Chicago. He also painted murals during the WPA with commissions including the federal Court House in Jackson, Mississipi and in Beaufort, NC. His paintings are in collections of a number of museums including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

Source:

R.H. Love Galleries, Inc.

Biography from Abby M Taylor Fine Art:
Simkha Simkhovitch was born near the city of Kiev, Russia.  When he was age seven, he spent a year in bed with a severe case of measles. To amuse himself he sketched an old mill outside his window, and thus decided to become an artist. 

He studied at an art school in Odessa and was recommended to attend the Imperial Academy of St. Petersburg (a singular honor in Russia at the time) before the war and revolution.  Swept up into the army before he could attend, he had work hung in the Museum of Revolution in Leningrad.  He resumed his studies in 1914 and graduated four years later.  He was sent to the United States in 1924 to do illustrations for Soviet textbooks.  He quickly applied for and gained U.S. citizenship.

Simkhovitch integrated with the art world immediately and galleries including Midtown Galleries and Marie Sterner took him on as part of their stable of artists. He also was employed by the WPA and executed major mural commissions throughout the country.  One of his largest commissions was the Mississippi Court House.   Life magazine editors profiled him twice with full-length features on his life here in this country as an artist.  When he died at an early age, the Whitney Museum of Art in New York offered to do a retrospective, but his widow denied the possibility and simply put his works away in storage.

Considered a master draftsman and an adherent of certain classicism, Simkhovitch did compositions that are often built up in a complicated but well-managed counterpoint.  But at heart, he was a romanticist preferring the dreamy colors of a Russian fairy tale.

He often portrayed children in either portrait or as part of a full composition, and it was once stated in a review in the Bridgeport Sunday Post (April 15, 1945) that “all his children in which métier he is so successful, have the delicate grace, the almost spiritual quality, added to the robust healthiness of Renoir’s children, considered by many as the most beautiful and appealing in all the world.”  In Young Girl with Black Cat, all of his artistic strengths seem brought together in this portrait of a haunting young girl with her pet.

Collections:
Leningrad Art Museum, Russia
Cracow Art Museum, Poland
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA
The New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, CT

Exhibitions:
Carnegie International, 1933—1945
National Academy of Design, 1926, 1942, 1946, 1948
Corcoran Biennial, 1935-1947
Art Institute of Chicago, 1932-1945
Pennsylvania Academy of Art, 1932-1947
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1940, 1942
Midtown Galleries, New York, 1941-1945
Milch Galleries, New York, 1933-1941, 1946-1949
Whitney Museum (numerous)
Wildenstein Galleries, New York (numerous)
The Wadsworth Athenaeum, CT, 1947

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