French-Jewish Painter

Moïse Kisling

The surrealist French artist Moïse Kisling was born on January 22, 1891 in Kraków to a Jewish family. He is known for his landscapes but especially for his surrealist portraits and nudes.

An artist since childhood, Kisling studied at the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts with Professor Józef Pankiewicz. Pankiewicz saw his talent and encouraged him to move to Paris, the center for many of the major artistic trends at the time.

Pankiewicz gave Kisling a letter of introduction to Sholem Asch, the famous Yiddish author, who helped find a Russian patron to support Kisling.

Kisling moved to Paris in 1910 and became a prominent member of the Paris school of artists which included Picasso and Matisse. Kisling first lived in Montmartre, the bohemian center of Paris, which was then the hub for the Cubist and Fauvist movements. During World War One he served in the French Foreign Legion and was wounded in the Battle of the Somme, as a result of which he received French citizenship.

Kisling enlisted in the French army again when World War Two began, but after Paris fell to the Nazis, given his Polish-Jewish origins, he and his family escaped to the United States. He lived in California until 1946, when he returned to France. He died in Sanary-sur-Mer on April 29, 1953.