Boris Taslitsky, Art in tune with the times

Roubaix – Swimming pool

Boris Taslitsky was a witness and representative of the great upheavals of his time. The war in Spain, the Popular Front, the resistance and the deportations were horrific events and moments for his generation. He was one, fortunately among many, who took on positioning himself in these moments in history by choosing to fight. Boris Taslitsky said that his life was marked by war. As a man and artist, aware of his responsibility, he drew on the traditions of the painters of history, from David to Courbet, via Delacroix and Grecolte, and Goya and Daumier. He advocated “realism with social content” that should tell us nothing more than testimony, than to tell the story that erupted before him. He was in touch with his time, and fell under this “revolutionary romance”, which never ceased to advocate the utopia of better days. His paintings give us a touching and poignant story about humanity.

The exhibition collects about fifty paintings, most of which are huge, by Boris Taslitsky. His paintings are accompanied by drawings and textures evoking the artist’s commitment to his time. His large compositions devoted to the political causes of his generation, his portraits and portraits, his landscapes and his still life, indicate his goal: a human purpose.

The selection of works focuses on the years 1930-1970, and is centered around a few strong thematic and chronological sequences: the sketches he painted at Buchenwald, in 1944-1945; Paintings inspired by liberation from the hardships of warweighs in rion where small camp); Scenes depicting trade union and industrial worker struggles in the late 1940s (delegates); Reactions to the 1951 Vietnam War; The report he gave in Algiers in 1952. or a series of 63 ink drawings, from 1985 to 1972, depicted the rapidly changing suburban atmosphere in northeastern Paris.

Boris Taslitsky was born in Paris. His parents were from Ukraine. In 1924, he decided to become a painter, and entered the modern academy, rue Notre-Dame de Champs. Then in 1929-1930, he entered the École des Beaux-Arts at the studio of Lucien Simon (1861-1945). There he met Jean Ambleard (1911-1989), and together they made multiple visits to the Louvre and made copies of the great masters there. In 1935, he joined the Association of Revolutionary Writers and Artists (AEAR) where he met Louis Aragon, Francis Jordan, Paul Villain-Couturier, Pablo Picasso, Édouard Pinon, André Vaughon, André Derain, François Desnoyer, Jean Lorcat, Marcel Gromayer, André Lotte, and Frans Masserelle, Fernand Leger and others. From May to June 1935, the AEAR gradually disappeared to make way for the Maison de la Culture. The latter organized exhibitions such as those dedicated to Courbet and Bonnard. On July 14, 1936, the Maison de la Culture organized a performance of the play Romain Rolland on July 14 at the Alhambra Theater, as well as an exhibition of paintings.

After Federico Garcia Lorca’s execution was announced, Boris Taslitsky realized telegram which he would later describe as “still living with social content”.

During the disaster of 1940, he was captured in the Loire River and taken to Camp Mellon. It was harvest time, and he was sent to Saint-Sulio, at the Somme. He fled at the end of August, returned to Paris, and then headed to the Free Zone to serve the resistance. He then contacted Jean Lurçat (1892-1966) and Marcel Gromaire (1892-1971) who retired to Aubusson. He was laid off thanks to a certificate of work and residence provided by Lurçat. Thus Boris Taslitsky became his assistant in the production of decorative animation. Subsequently, he will continue, incidentally, until the years 1980-1990, to deliver samples of textiles, which will be performed by the workshop of Susan Jubilee (1909-1997).

However, Lorat and Taslitsky separated for security reasons, after an investigation by the Vichy police. Then he contacted the painter Fabian Menau (1885-1975), who lived near Saint-Cirque-Lapope, in Lot. In July he met Aragon at Cahors, and together with Fabian Minot they formed two independent underground groups. Taslitsky then lived for a month with Raoul Dufy and organized an association in Montpellier with Marcel Weil (1901-1944). On November 13, 1941, he was arrested in Crégois at the request of Creuse. On November 12, 1943, he found himself in the Saint-Sulpice-la-Point camp in Tarn. He stayed there for eight months, and took a very active part in the camp’s cultural life. He decorated the walls of the barracks with large frescoes painted with pots of watercolor paint. On July 31, 1944, Special Forces invaded the Saint-Sulpice camp and the prisoners were deported. On August 5, Boris Taslitsky and his companions arrived in Buchenwald.

In Buchenwald, Julian Kane and Jorge Semprun met, and thanks to the protection of his comrades, he was able to produce more than 200 drawings. On May 2, 1945, Boris Taslitsky was returned to France. In January 1946, Aragon had a volume published by La Bibliothèque française, with an introduction by Julien Caen and text by Marcel Paul, collecting a large part of his drawings written at Buchenwald.

The works of Boris Taslitsky are a perfect illustration of what he said: “There is no good art if every line is not an affirmation of human solidarity.” A likable, altruistic and humanitarian character, he always preferred to highlight collectivism and struggle.

• La Piscine Museum, 23 rue de l’Espérance, 59100 Roubaix

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