Zadkine Research Center

Ossip Zadkine about his wife Valentine Prax (1899-1981)

Two precedents played and continue to play a part in the life of Valentine Prax.
They are of an atavistic order, of particular pre-history: the first is an antique, very sensitive fold born of Catalan and Sicillian origins, of ancestors who had gone to Algeria and the second is a French fold.

The Parisian beginnings of the painter, Valentine Prax, were difficult as they were for all of us.
By nature, the young woman knew how to look at things and her visits to museums taught her very quickly what one must first of all make of oneself and for oneself before working with design and color-to create within oneself a new being, to find within oneself the narrator and accentuate it, to renew the language of the painted object as well as a new method of painting the object; to arm the eyes with new means of seeing and liberating the object; to do away with the apt and photographic description, to accentuate the poetry of the objects for the soul which, like a night-lamp, lights the objects from within and bares the interesting thing hidden within; to choose that which marries best with one's soul and makes of one an Enchanted World.

Valentine Prax at an early age had a penchant tor the streets of poor villages, for the interiors of peasant houses.
She loved lonely streets with blind windows.

Thus she made them sing, in her fashion, their melancholy and solitude.
Her work, until the war of 1939-1945, was animated by this poetization of what the shattering and rushed life of this epoch left in the villages of southwest France.

The persecutions, the anguish of war, the solitude, also gave rise to another series of great canvases by means of which Valentine expressed her horror of the destruction and the importance of the human being before the devastating calamity, standing face to face with the malicious, laughing brute which kills the poet and the sun.

After the war she returned to the painting of landscapes which she peopled with personnages and with animals, and to the still-lifes, constructing compositions of forms converging towards a luminous center.

In the painting of after the war, of ten personnages with musical instruments look out on the open space, bewitched by a silence, characteristic of Valentine Prax, and by a sort of suspense before which the spectator is left alone with himself as though he were listening and suddenly re-finding himself, his eyes plunged into the opening of a great and marvelous window.

In the latest pictures, the painted subject divides itself in two, personnage and animal, man or woman and birds which do not exist, their heads standing out over fairy-like cities which rise in the distance out of the sea.

One is drawn toward these pictures with their flowerings in the sea waves, and the eyes cannot but accept the invitation to take that tar-away trip, where all is light and misty.

The return toward the lost landscape, fantastic and ever marine, re-opens the atavistic page on which all is written and colored, the dawns and azures of the great Dim Past, where all is an indication of that which ought to be for always.

Ossip Zadkine and Valentine Prax, 1920

Ossip Zadkine and Valentine Prax, 1920