Schraga Zarfin. Leading to the Light

Schraga Zarfin. Leading to the Light

The National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus Main building

On December 6, 2019 the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus will hold the exhibition ‘Schraga Zarfin. Leading to the Light’ from the collection of the A-100 Group of Companies, from the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus, from the Centre for the Creativity of Children and Youth of Smilavichy and private collections.

This first solo exhibition in Belarus is dedicated to the 120th anniversary of Schraga Zarfin (1899–1975), the artist of the Paris School and man with an unusual fate. He was a native of Smilavichy near Minsk. The exposition will acquaint the Belarusian viewer with unknown Schraga Zarfin’s works belonging to the A-100 Group of Companies, as well as present the artist’s rarely exhibited paintings from private collections, and tell about his creative and spiritual quests.

Schraga Zarfin was born in Smilavichy near Minsk on January 7, 1899. He began to paint in early childhood. In the 1900s, he was acquainted with Chaim Soutine, also a native of Smilavichy. Thirty years later, they met again in Paris. In 1913, Schraga Zarfin entered the Vilna Drawing School, but in 1914 he left for Palestine. There he studied at the Bezalel School of Art, and worked in a kibbutz. In 1918–1920 he served in the British army, fought for the liberation of Palestine from the Ottoman Empire.

After the end of the First World War, Schraga Zarfin returned to Bezalel, and participated in a number of exhibitions. He left for Berlin in 1923, and in 1924 he moved to Paris. Here he was engaged in self-education, began to cooperate with publishing houses and fashion houses, exhibited in the Salons of Independents. In 1929, Schraga Zarfin got married, and the spouses gained French citizenship in 1931.

In the 1930s Schraga Zarfin actively worked as a textile designer. Critics call him ‘exponent of fabric designs’. During the Second World War, almost all the works by Schraga Zarfin of the 1920–1930s disappeared without a trace. Only sketches for fabrics miraculously survived in a number of private archives. The exhibition features such several sketches.

During the World War II Schraga Zarfin first served in the French army, then was demobilized and participated in the Resistance Movement. In these hard times, three of his solo exhibitions took place in Grenoble (1941) and in Lyon (March and July, 1942). Schraga Zarfin produced his method that later became his ‘brand’: he managed to mix gouache and oil paints.

The Zarfins returned to Paris in 1945. Since 1947 they lived in Roni-sous-Bois, a small town near the capital of France. Life in the post-war France, destroyed and plundered by the Nazis, was very hard. However, at the time Schraga Zarfin decided to follow the advice of his older friend Chaim Soutine to be completely dedicated to painting. The artist’s life was stress-filled, especially after he got to know about his parents’ death in the Smilavichy ghetto. Only in the 1960s the artist managed to overcome the mental crisis. His works gradually began to fill with peace and tranquility.

Schraga Zarfin died after a long illness in 1975. He is buried in the Roni-sous-Bois cemetery.

All friends and relatives of Schraga Zarfin noted his mysticism and desire for intellectual communication. The artist read a lot, tried to travel, getting to know new lands and people.

One of the leading themes in the art of Schraga Zarfin is landscapes of France, which became his second homeland. The artist sought to depict spiritual and philosophical problems. Schraga Zarfin was an excellent colorist. He used a proper individual palette, all the time being in search of new expressive means. His works are in a lot of museums in France, in the Rothschild family’s collections and Charlie Chaplin’s family.

‘Schraga Zarfin. Leading to the Light’ will present 52 works made by the artist in different years.

The works by Schraga Zarfin from the collection of the A-100 Group of Companies were acquired from the artist’s heirs in 2018.