Sculpture at Les Arques

Making the most of a long summer evening, on the way back from Domme we called in at Les Arques. Another small village in the Lot, with only a 1 leaf rating as a Fleuri village (1 out of 4) it has a special surprise. The Zadkine Museum, as well as several other of his sculptures in the nearby chapel of St André and the surrounding space.  There is also the Zadkine artist’s residency program in this village.

Ossip Zadkine was born in 1890 in what is now Belarus. His father was of Jewish heritage, and his mother had Scottish forebears and these influences carry through his work with his focus on mysticism, his use of found wood from old trees. Isabelle Rooryck speaks of him having a sharmanic attitude to trees as the king and queen of the forest, of his ‘glorification of creation’ and a ‘cosmic consciousness and religion’ in his process. So he always worked with the shapes and grain of the timber to enhance what he found already there. When working in plaster and bronze and painting and drawing, he explored similar themes.

As a young man his parents sent him to study art in the north of England, though unbeknown to them, he made his way down to London and studied there as well, before making his way to Paris where he began exhibiting paintings and sculptures in his very early twenties. In Paris he met Picasso as well as a lot of other artists and writers – Henri Matisse visited his workshop and Modigliani became a good friend. His work became influenced by Cubism from this time.

When WWI came he joined the army and worked as a stretcher-bearer at the front but was discharged the following year. After time in hospital, he went to the southwest of France to fully recover. He said he was ‘bodily and spiritually’ ruined by the war. During this time he painted and drew producing a series of etchings about the war.

While there, his neighbour was Valentine Prax – a very good painter in her own right. They married in 1920. The couple bought a house and moved to Les Arques in 1934 where the couple lived and worked for many years. Zadkine’s work was being purchased by galleries and exhibited throughout Europe and the States and he went to these places for a time, but his heart remained here in the Lot and it was where he wished for his permanent museum to be.


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