Léon Schwartz-Abrys – Paris Street – Circa 1960
Striking oil on canvas painting depicting a Paris streetscape, more precisely, rue des Rigoles, located in the Belleville district (north-west of the capital), between Montmartre and the Père Lachaise cemetery. In the foreground, the artist showcases the facade of the Lavoir des Rigoles, a former 19th century industrial washhouse, now demolished.
Léon Schwartz-Abrys, self-taught French painter and novelist. He was born Abraham Schwarz-Abrys on May 5, 1905 in Sátoraljaújhely (Hungary), into extreme poverty. He arrived in France in 1930 and painted at the same time as he exercised various trades: worker in a steelwork in Nièvre then in a rubber factory in Clichy, in a brewery, as a house painter, then decorator. He lived successively at 11, rue Nicolet in Montmartre and impasse Deschamps in Ménilmontant. In 1939, he participated in the Salon des Indépendants for the first time with paintings which drew much attention and divided opinion.
Engaged as a volunteer during the Second World War, he was taken prisoner, then released by mistake. On March 30, 1943, when the deportation and extermination of European Jews became systematized, Léon Schwartz-Abrys found refuge by being interned, like Jean-Michel Atlan, at the Sainte-Anne Psychiatric Hospital in Paris, remaining there until August 21, 1944. He liked to depict the life of the Ménilmontant district and render its poetry and animation. His vision was often tragic, painting small houses in dramatic light. It is there that he paints his portraits of asylum seekers and desperate beings. In 1950 he published his first novel (L'âne ne monte pas au cerisier), strongly autobiographical and which, like the two that followed in 1951 and 1955, was inspired by his two years of internment at Sainte-Anne.
Léon Schwarz-Abrys' paintings do not all draw inspiration from the realm of madness; he painted many portraits of the mentally ill, but also painted landscapes, horses, and occasionally, scenes from Jewish folklore. He signed his paintings S.Abrys or SAbrys.
His miserable childhood and his stay in the psychiatric hospital provided the fascinating biographical elements that no doubt contributed to the celebrity his work garnered between 1950 and 1970, years when Schwarz- Abrys managed to make a good living from his painting.
In 1970 he retreated from exhibitions and adopted a life of solitude, before gradually falling into oblivion until his death in 1990 in Paris.
Sources: Benezit, Dictionary of Artists, Gründ, 1999; Dictionnaire des artistes à Montmartre, Éditions André Roussard, 1999; Schwarz-Abrys I. Dernier VRAI peintre et écrivain MAUDIT (XXe siècle), Editions Thibaud, 1989; Autour de l'art juif. Encyclopédie des peintres, photographes et sculpteurs, Éditions Carnot, 2003.
Artist: Léon Schwartz-Abrys (1905-1990).
Signed in the lower right corner.
Medium: Oil on hardboard.
Condition: Very good condition.
Dimensions: 61 x 50,5 cm. / 24 x 20 ¼ in.
Frame: 82,5 X 72 cm. / 32 ¼ X 28 ¼ in. Montparnasse-style wood frame. Very good condition.