- February 18, 1984
Nahum Tschacbasov was a prominent Russian and American abstractionist artist and photographer, sometimes compared to Marc Chagall. He was one of the most prolific of the modernist painters of the first half of the XX century, with hundreds of works and dozens of exhibitions all across the United States and in Europe.
Nahum Tschacbasov - better late than never
Nahum Tschacbasov was born in 1899 in Baku, a town on the Caspian Sea, in Azerbaijan, then Russian Empire to the family with many children. When he turned 8, the family moved to the United States, settling in Chicago.
His father's business failed during an economic downturn, so the family had to lead a meager existence in Chicago's slums.
Nahum left the school at the age of thirteen and took a succession of jobs to help support the family. He attended night school for one year, studying electrical engineering, and later enlisted in the Navy to serve as an electrician at Scapa Flow, off the northern coast of Scotland.
The lights of the North Sea sky impress him greatly and leave a mark on his style forever... "Nothing could compare with the Scapa Flow. My feeling for color in my work has drawn from this palette of the Northern Skies. The color in the North made me lose my deep feeling of depression."
The decades from 1919 to 1939 prove to be extremely difficult and stressful for the painter: he returns to night school for three years, earns a degree in business, becomes an accountant and an efficiency expert, creates his own successful business, loses the business due to the Great Depression, marries once and has two children, divorces and re-marries again, and finally leaves for Paris, France, where he can have peace and quiet in a creative atmosphere...
During this time, in response to pressures of work and life, he takes a deepening interest in drawing and painting, which he has taken up. His first encounters with modern art are the works of Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Rouault.
Working in his studio on the edge of Montmartre and later in the Hotel de Sante in Montparnasse, he produces a large body of work, retaining fifty paintings. After trips to North Africa, Spain, and the Balearic Islands, he travels often from Paris to New York City, where he spends six months painting a series of Great Depression-inspired pictures.
In 1939, while in a deep personal and artistic crisis, he takes keen interest in Jungian psychoanalysis, which provides new impetus and direction to his painting. Under the influence of analysis, he starts to write portions of his famous surrealistic autobiography, The Moon is My Uncle.
During that time Tschacbasov takes up photography. Photographing the works of friends and other artists, he builds a collection of color slides which serves as a foundation for the American Library Color Slide Company, an archives which continues to be of service in art history education.
Despite the very late start of Tschacbasov's artistic career, he succeeds more than most of his colleagues, producing hundreds of paintings, thousands of photographs and. from the early 40s until the late 70s, holding dozens of one-man exhibitions in some of the most prominent museums and art galleries of the United States and France. He was also a renown member of the left-leaning political organization The Ten, promoting mildly socialist ideas, including that of full state support of American artists.
Tschacbasov died in his home in New York City.
John Castagno, Jewish Artists: Signatures and Monograms
Photo Flash: NAHUM TSCHACBASOV: A RETROSPECTIVE - www.broadwayworld.com
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