Project Description

One of the vivid proofs of Vidin’s – a Bulgarian city in the northwest, contribution to European and world civilization is the personality of the famous artist Jules Pascin.

Jules Pascin’s mother was Italian and his father a prosperous Spanish corn merchant established in Bulgaria. He spent part of his childhood in Bucharest, where the family moved in 1891, and attended secondary school first in Kronstadt (now Brasov), then in Vienna in 1895. He left the family home in 1902 (allegedly because of a liaison with a courtesan) and started studying painting. From 1903 to 1904 he attended the Moritz Heymann School of Art in Munich, and while he was there, he sold cartoons to satirical journals and humorous magazines such as Simplicissimus and Jugend. He studied briefly in Berlin where he befriended the Dadaist George Grosz.

In 1905, at his parent’s request, he changed his name to Pascin, an anagram of his surname. At the end of that year, he went to Paris and settled in Montparnasse where he joined the cosmopolitan artistic circle. He frequented the Café du Dome with such artists as George Grosz and Rudolf Grossmann and continued to work for German publishing houses. In 1910 he travelled to Spain and Portugal, and in 1913 returned to Bulgaria for the last time to attend his mother’s funeral. In 1914 he moved to London, then to New York, probably to avoid being enlisted in the Bulgarian army. In New York, he turned to illustration again as a means of income and became part of the artists’ circle based around the Penguin Club. He travelled extensively in the Southern states (Louisiana, North Carolina and Florida) and in Cuba, married the painter Hermine David in 1918, and became an American citizen in 1920. He returned to Paris at the end of 1920 and stayed for the best part of a decade, leading a hedonistic life in both Montparnasse and Montmartre, and becoming a major figure of the École de Paris and the so-called Roaring Twenties. He travelled to Tunisia in 1921, to Italy in 1925, and to Egypt the following year, on his way to Palestine. He returned only briefly to New York in 1927-1928. He travelled to Spain and Portugal in 1929 and signed a contract with the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune & Cie the same year, which gave them exclusivity on all of his output.

Like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Pascin drew upon his surroundings and his friends, both male and female, as subjects. During the 1920s, Pascin mostly painted fragile petites filles, prostitutes waiting for clients, or models waiting for the sitting to end. His fleetingly rendered paintings sold readily, but the money he made was quickly spent. Famous as the host of numerous large parties in his flat, whenever he was invited elsewhere for dinner, he arrived with as many bottles of wine as he could carry. He frequently led a large group of friends on summer picnics beside the River Marne, where their excursions lasted all afternoon.

According to his biographer, Georges Charensol:

Scarcely had he chosen his table at the Dôme or the Sélect than he would be surrounded by five or six friends; at nine o’clock, when we got up to dinner, we would be 20 in all, and later in the evening, when we decided to go up to Montmartre to Charlotte Gardelle’s or the Princess Marfa’s—where Pascin loved to take the place of the drummer in the jazz band—he had to provide for 10 taxis.

Among Pascin’s circle of Parisian friends was Ernest Hemingway, whose memoir A Moveable Feast includes a chapter titled “With Pascin At the Dôme”, which recounts a night in 1923 when he met Pascin and two of his young models for drinks at the café.

Pascin struggled with depression and alcoholism. “[D]riven to the wall by his own legend”, according to art critic Gaston Diehl, he committed suicide at the age of 45 on the eve of a prestigious solo show.

On the day of Pascin’s funeral, June 7, 1930, thousands of acquaintances from the artistic community, and dozens of waiters and bartenders from the restaurants and saloons Pascin had frequented, all dressed in black, walked three miles behind his coffin, from his studio at 36 boulevard de Clichy to the Cimetière de Saint-Ouen. A year later, Pascin’s family had his remains re-interred at the more prestigious cimetière du Montparnasse.

You can learn more about his work, personality and forms of artistic expression using the following links: