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Ida KARSKAYA (1905-1990)

Ida Karskaya was born in Bender in Ukraine in 1905. She left her home country in 1922 to pursue medicine studies in Belgium, and then went to Paris where she settled permanently.

She started to paint in 1930 and met Soutine, with whom she tied a close friendship until the death of the painter in 1943. Ida Karskaya and her husband, the painter Serge Karsky, took refuge in the Hérault during the occupation and the gallery Favier in Montpellier organized her first exhibition in 1943. Back in Paris she met Jean Paulhan, an art critic, who presented her to the painters Fautrier and Wols, along with the writers Francis Ponge, Maurice Nadeau, Marc Bernhard and Henri Calet. Her painting turned little by little towards an abstraction that became more and more clear, without being there quite yet. The galleries Pétridès and Breteau exhibited her work in Paris in 1946. Her works are characterized by what Henri Calet called “a world of genesis, pre human, inhabited only by people hardly formed…”. A universe proper to Ida Karskaya herself, who was clearly a person “out of the ordinary”.

She refused to be associated with any artistic movement, popular or not, by fear that it would inhibit her liberty as a creator. Ida Karskaya lived in the same way as she painted, with force, conviction and independence. Her work, in constant evolution, permitted her to try everything; collage, painting, drawing, and even incorporating objects in her paintings creating a three dimension. As she liked to say, having never taken life too seriously, she could permit herself everything. It is in 1954, during an exhibition called “Espana” at the gallery Colette Allendy, inspired by a summer spent in Spain with her son, that Ida Karskaya shows for the first time her instinctive and spontaneous collages, using all sorts of materials, from wooden slats to threads of wool, without any restrictions, where the goal was to explore all the qualities of the different materials. 

Exhibitions followed in Belgium, France, she was awarded the price of the City of Paris in 1955, and the collages multiplied. She confessed to “I make collages when I do the housework” but continued at the same time to create a more meditated work around black and white, that resulted in the series “Lettres sans réponse” (Letters without response). In 1961 she did a big travel in the United States and in Mexico that totally revitalized her work. She discovered space, and especially she reconciled with color. She then exhibited in New York, Milan, Turin, London and participated at several salons such as Réalités Nouvelles and Comparaisons. The abbey of Beaulieu honored Ida Karskaya in 1972 with the exhibition “Karskaya, 25 years of invention”. She passed away in 1990 in Paris after having led a truly incredible life.