WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY MICHAEL PEPPIATT
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I met Arikha for the first time in 2009. When I looked at the paintings hanging on the wall of his house or standing on the floor of his studio, I knew with absolute certainty that I was facing the greatest living painter… The painting of future years must start out again from here.
AVIGDOR ARIKHA was admittedly one of the most important artists of the twentieth century. He was born in Romania to German-speaking Romanian Jewish parents and spent most of his life in Paris. A talented child, he started drawing early on. During the Second World War, he was deported to a concentration camp in the Ukraine, where he drew the horrors he witnessed. These drawings saved his life. During the 1950s, he established himself in Paris and was enjoying a successful career as an abstract painter. In 1965, a Caravaggio exhibition prompted him to convert to drawing from life. He stopped using colour until 1973, when he started again to paint. He worked with a religious, almost war-like, intensity until his death.
Arikha was also an erudite and passionate scholar, endowed with a deep understanding of the history of art and its techniques, well-versed in world history and fascinated by science. He wrote many essays and curated important exhibitions of masters such as Poussin, Velázquez and Ingres.
In this collection of essays that he wrote between 1965 and 1994, Arikha expounds on art and artists (Mantegna, Velázquez, Poussin, David, Ingres, Degas, Matisse, and more), technique, seeing, and the state of culture in his day which, one could argue, is no more hopeful today, almost thirty years later.