Zarfin (1899-1975), painter of the École de Paris

Schraga Faibich Zarfin (1899-1975), also known as “Sam” in some publications, was born in Smilovitchi, near Minsk. Like Soutine, Kikoïne and Krémègne, he first trained at the School of Fine Arts in Vilna, before emigrating to Palestine in 1914. In Jerusalem he attended the Beçal School of Fine Arts. In 1923 he left for Berlin where he was influenced by Max Liebermann and other German Expressionists. In 1924 he settled in Paris where he met up with Soutine, his childhood friend (for more on this topic, see Soutine, Introduction by Waldemar-George [Paris, 1959, “Art et Style”, 52]). Between 1925 and 1940 he frequently exhibited his works at the Salon des Indépendants. At the same time he worked as an interior decorator (in this capacity he also designed textiles especially for fashion designers). He became a French citizen in 1931. In 1941 he fled first to Lyons, then to Grenoble, where he was first able to exhibit his works, thanks to the support of the local museum director, André Farcy, before also exhibiting them in Lyons. Unfortunately, the works which he had left behind in his Paris apartment have vanished without a trace. In 1947 he moved to Rosny-sous-Bois. During the 1950s, his style evolved considerably, and he developed a new technique of gouache painting which incorporated oil colors. In 1955 the French National Museum of Art purchased one of his canvases (Paysage, 50 × 64, nr 24, museum inventory nr AM 2253 P). He held exhibitions in 1958 at the Jewish Museum of New York, in 1964 at the Ashmoleum Museum in Oxford, and in 1966 at the Château de Laversine near Creil. Nevertheless, he tended to avoid exhibiting his paintings. Many art collectors have been and are interested in his work. In 1963 a collective study was dedicated to Zarfin under the editorship of Ernest Fraenckel, with contributions by Étienne Souriau, Jean Cassou, Waldemar-George and Henri Hertz (Éditions Pierre Cailler, Geneva). During the 1960s he often spent time either in Brittany or in the south of France near Montpellier, and in the early 1970s in the Savoy. Until his death in 1975 he continued to paint.

Several retrospective exhibitions have been dedicated to his work, most notably those at Montreuil-sous-Bois (1975), Montpellier (1980, 1984) and Lunel (1981). Beginning in 1995 the gallery Les Oréades (Paris, Toulouse, Luchon) has continuously exhibited Zarfin’s work in different contexts. More recently, Nadine Nieszawer, an art historian whose specialization is the École de Paris, has been working to make Zarfin’s output better known (www.ecoledeparis.org). Zarfin is also represented on the website of the Society of Artists in the Graphic and Plastic Arts (Société des auteurs dans les arts graphiques et plastiques, ADAGP).

Zarfin, sous la direction d’Ernest Fraenkel, préface d’Étienne Souriau, Genève, Pierre Cailler, 1962.

Nadine Nieszawer, avec la coll. de Marie Boyé et Paul Fogel, Peintres juifs à Paris, 1905-1939. École de Paris, préface de Claude Lanzmann, Paris, Denoël, 2000.