Emmanuel Mane-Katz, Ukrainian/French (1894 - 1962)

Emmanuel Mane-Katz

French painter and sculptor of Ukrainian birth, born Mane Leyzerovich Kats.

He came from an orthodox Jewish family; his father was sexton of a synagogue, and he was originally intended to become a rabbi.

After studying at the School of Fine Arts in Kiev, he visited Paris for the first time in 1913 and enrolled in Fernand Cormon's class at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where his fellow students included Chaïm Soutine.

He was influenced by Rembrandt, by the Fauves (especially Derain) and, briefly, by Cubism. Mané-Katz returned to Ukraine after the outbreak of World War I. There he was appointed professor at the academy in Khar'kov (now Kharkiv) in 1917, after the Revolution.

He left again for Paris in 1921, this time with the intention of taking as his principal theme life in the ghettos of Eastern Europe, the rabbis and Talmudic students, the fiddlers and drummers, comedians and beggars, for example in the Eternal People (Am Israel Hai) (1938; Haifa, Mané-Katz Mus.); he also painted a number of landscapes and flower studies. His style became expressionist and baroque, with loose brushwork and rhythmical forms.

He obtained French citizenship in 1927 but after the fall of France took refuge from 1940 to 1945 in New York, where he also began to make a few sculptures, such as the Double-bass Player (bronze, h. 610 mm, 1943; see Aries, i, p. 194).

After the war his paintings became much bolder in their colours and patterning. He made a number of visits to Israel and left the works in his possession to the town of Haifa, where they formed the basis of a museum devoted to his work.

Mane-Katz left his paintings and extensive personal collection of Jewish ethnography to the city of Haifa, Israel. Four years before his death, the mayor of Haifa, Abba Hushi, provided him with a building on Mt. Carmel to house his work, which became the Mane-Katz Museum. The exhibit includes Mane-Katz's oils, showing a progressive change in style over the years, a signed portrait of the artist by Picasso dated 1932 and a large collection of Jewish ritual objects.

In 1953, Mane-Katz donated eight of his paintings to the Glitzenstein Museum in Safed, whose artists quarter attracted leading Israeli artists in the 1950s and 1960s, and housed some of the country's most important galleries.

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