Isaac Pailes

Isaac Pailes

Kiev, Ukraine 1895 – France 1978

Isaac Païles was born in Kiev to a family of goldsmiths. His maternal grandfather was a wood burner. At the age of 13, Païles began showing an interest in printmaking and sculpturing. In 1910 he entered the Academy of Fine Arts in Kiev, where he met Issachar Rybak and Max Kaganovitch. The two would become his art dealers for the next forty years.

In 1913 Païles moved to Paris, where he shared a room with Mane Katz and studied sculpture in the Academy of Fine Arts of Paris. However, a year later he decided to return to the Ukraine. When the Bolshevik revolution broke out, Païles was sent to the front line in Crimea but he refused to fight.

In exchange for a gold ring, he was able to get a ticket on a boat to Constantinople. From there, he tried returning to Paris and was finally able to do so in 1919. His first stop in Paris was at the “La Rotonde” café where he found two old friends, Michel Kikoïne and Isaac Dobrinsky. He worked as a model to help support himself.

In 1920, Païles abandoned sculpture and began to paint. His original training as a sculptor can be discerned in his work. The subject matter of his paintings was largely limited to clowns, still lifes and vistas of France.

Païles was attached to his Slavic origin and participated in activities of the Russian Artists’ Society, and became chairman of the Russian Artists in Montparnasse.

During World War II Païles settled in the eastern Pyrenees and later in Auvergne. He joined a Belgium resistance group from Rochefort, and stayed in an attic for 11 months. At the end of the war he returned to Montparnasse and resumed painting. In 1948 he painted his first abstract work, with these paintings possibly being his most interesting works.

Although part of the École de Paris movement, Païles was possibly the most unique painter. His language was individual, from the colors through his texture and his themes. His works have no similarity to the work of any other painters in his times, as he combined elements of many of the artistic movements that were popular in his days: expressionism, fauvism, cubism and abstract.