Georges Malkine

Annie Lee | Dec 23, 2023

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Georges Alexandre Malkine († March 22, 1970 ibid) was a French artist and actor associated with the Surrealist movement.

Malkine in the surrealist movement

Georges Malkine grew up in the Rue du Cardinal Lemoine in the 5th arrondissement; his father Jacques Malkine was Russian and came from Odessa. The violinist had come to Paris in 1893. George's mother Ingeborg Magnus came to Paris from Copenhagen to perfect her violin playing and become a concert musician. After their marriage in 1898, they took French citizenship. Georges Malkine attended the Lycée Janson-de-Sailly after elementary school, then the Lycée Condorcet. He had violin lessons with his father before switching to piano. While his parents were away on concert tours, he lived with his aunt Gerda, a pianist, in Boulogne-sur-Mer. In World War I, he was drafted in 1917 and was at the front in the Ardennes, where he was wounded in early 1918. In the Val-de-Grâce hospital in Paris, he met Guillaume Apollinaire and, in 1919, the young Claude-André Puget.

After his mother's death in 1919 from tuberculosis, Malkine traveled to Africa; after returning to Paris, Malkine, who had already begun painting at the age of fifteen, eked out a living with odd jobs, successively as a violinist, factory worker, soldier, photographer, tie salesman, bank clerk, proofreader, actor, fairground carousel mechanic, and diver.

In 1921 he decided to take up painting seriously and destroyed all his previously realized works. In 1922 he met Robert Desnos, with whom he had a deep friendship for many years; through Desnos he eventually met Louis Aragon, André Breton and Paul Éluard, with whom he explored the ideas of Dadaism. In 1923 he found employment with a municipal firm in Nice and remained in intensive correspondence with Desnos. In 1924 Malkine became increasingly involved in the Surrealist movement; he was the first painter to write Texte automatique for the first issue of the magazine La Révolution Surréaliste, which appeared in December 1924. At the request of André Breton, he created the logo for the paper. From Nice, he wrote a second text for number 4 of La Révolution Surréaliste in 1925. That year he met Francis Picabia in Cannes, later in Paris, met Jacques Prévert, Marcel Duhamel and Yves Tanguy; in Nice he met André Breton and his wife Simone, also André Masson, Georges Neveux and Max Morise. In November, at the suggestion of Robert Desnos, he exhibited his drawings for the first time at a Surrealist exhibition at the Galerie Pierre in Paris.

In the mid-1920s, he was part of the group of artists (like Joan Miró) at 45 Rue Blomet in Paris, where he shared a studio with Robert Desnos after returning to live in Paris in 1926. He met the actress Caridad de Laberdesque during this time, who starred in Luis Buñuel's The Golden Age in 1930. After first illustrating a long poem by Desnos, The Night of Loveless Nights, he produced the paintings The Night of Love (1926, La Nuit de l'amour) and The Ecstasy, which appeared in La Révolution Surréaliste, as well as his works La Vallée de Chevreuse, L'Espoir, and Sénégal; his painting Magie Blanche was acquired by Louis Aragon. Malkine also wrote an article for Paris-Soir entitled La peinture d'exploration, in which he explains his artistic conception.

In January 1927, the Galerie Surréaliste dedicated a successful exhibition to him; his paintings were acquired by Breton, Aragon, Charles-François Baron, Jacques Doucet and Nancy Cunard. Another exhibition was held in 1928 at the Au Sacre du Printemps gallery. Tensions in the Surrealist group led to the departure of Desnos, Prévert, Raymond Queneau, and Masson. Malkine himself decided to travel to Tahiti, where he met the American Yvette Ledoux, with whom he returned to Paris; the couple married in February 1930. His friendship with Desnos had cooled; he was in contact with Antonin Artaud, Georges Neveux, and Claude-André Puget during this period. In 1930, Man Ray photographed him kissing his wife; Robert Desnos and the sculptor André Lasserre can be seen in the background of the photograph. Although Malkine continued to sell work, his economic situation had worsened. In 1931, he was one of the signers of a petition entitled Front Rouge, with which the Surrealists took a stand against Louis Aragon.

In 1932 Malkine met the poet, critic and art historian Patrick Waldberg (the friendship lasted until the end of his life. In 1933 he had another exhibition at the Clausen Gallery, but he now ended his activities as a painter. Alongside Danielle Darrieux, Pierre Blanchar, Michèle Morgan, and Jean Gabin, he appeared from 1933 to 1941 in films by Billy Wilder (Mauvaise graine 1934), Christian-Jaque, Marc Allégret, Marcel L'Herbier, Louis Daquin, Georges Lacombe, Jacques Feyder, Jean Grémillon, Leopold Hainisch, and Robert Siodmak, among others. In 1937, Georges and Yvette Malkine had Japanese artist Yozo Hamaguchi (during this time, Yvette Malkine fell prey to heroin and alcohol addiction. Malkine himself was addicted to opium in 1938, after his return to Paris.

In September 1939, Georges Malkine escaped mobilization for the army for health reasons; Yvette decided to return to her family in New York at the outbreak of the war; Georges eked out a living as a docker, later as a worker in a cookie factory in Marseille and as a showman in Paris. From 1941 he was active in the Resistance; in December 1943 he was arrested by the Gestapo, tortured and interned in a labor camp near Berlin.

The postwar years

After the end of the war, Malkine's health deteriorated. He was devastated when he returned to Paris to find that his previous works and sketches had been destroyed; he was also shaken by the death of his friend Robert Desnos in June 1945. That same year, his wife Yvette also died of tuberculosis in New York. From 1946 Malkine worked as a designer of book covers, then as an editor. During this time he had contact with the author and anarchist May Picqueray and her daughter Sonia Niel, with whom he entered into a relationship. He accepted a small role in a play by Roger Vitrac, alongside Juliette Gréco and Michel de Ré. At this stage, his girlfriend Sonia encouraged him to paint again. They married on March 18, 1948, after their daughter Monelle was born in February 1947, and their son Gilles in November 1948.

At the end of 1948, the couple decided to move to New York City with their children; they lived in the Brooklyn neighborhood. Malkine worked as a painter, besides writing the novel A bord du Violon de mer, which he had already begun in Paris in the summer of 1947. In April 1950, the third child, daughter Fern, was born, then the fourth child Shayan in December 1951. Although Malkine was not fully satisfied with his new works, he exhibited at the Weingarten Gallery in Manhattan in 1955. In 1956 Sonia and the children moved to their house in Shady near Woodstock, which they had already purchased in 1953; Sonia lived in Woodstock from then on, where she was one of the founders of the Woodstock Folk Festival.

Malkine remained in New York to concentrate entirely on his painting. He produced the works Narcissus and Dimanche, which were exhibited in Woodstock galleries in late 1960, without success. In 1962 his works were shown in Paris at a retrospective de Surrealists at the Galerie Charpentier. In 1966 he was in Paris again and showed a new series of paintings. There he had renewed contacts with Claude-André Puget, Yozo Hamaguchi, Georges Neveux, Jacques Prévert, André Breton, Louis Aragon, André Masson, and Max Ernst; Patrick Waldberg organized an exhibition at the Galerie Mona Lisa, which was a great sales success, as was the 1967 exhibition at the Salon de Mai at the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris, then at the Galerie Laporte in Antibes. Despite his illness, Malkine continued to paint; he last lived in seclusion in Sceaux, then in Rue Blondel in Paris. In 1968 his work was shown in Belgium in a group exhibition entitled Trésors du Surréalisme. In 1970, the Musée d'Art Moderne at the Centre Pompidou acquired his work La Fête; his friend Patrick Waldberg published a monograph. Georges Malkine died of a cerebral stroke shortly after completing his last painting, La Mer, on March 22, 1970.

The eldest son Gilles Malkine is active as a musician and composer, he performed with Tim Hardin at the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and worked for many years with the lyricist Mikhail Horowitz; Monelle Malkine-Richmond is also a musician. His daughter Fern Malkine-Falvey worked as a journalist, translator and correspondent for Paris Match; she wrote a biography of her father and advised the Pavillon des Arts museum in Paris on a retrospective of his work.

Georges Malkine left behind an œuvre of nearly 500 works. André Breton said about Malkine's work to Patrick Waldberg:


  1. Georges Malkine
  2. Georges Malkine
  3. Lebel/Sanouillet/Waldberg: Der Surrealismus. Köln, Taschen Verlag 1987, S. 169 f.
  4. Ronni Gordon: Artist moves out of father's shadow (2002) (Memento des Originals vom 4. März 2016 im Internet Archive)  Info: Der Archivlink wurde automatisch eingesetzt und noch nicht geprüft. Bitte prüfe Original- und Archivlink gemäß Anleitung und entferne dann diesen Hinweis.@1@2Vorlage:Webachiv/IABot/
  5. ^ André Breton, “Manifesto of Surrealism” [1924], in Manifestoes of Surrealism, transl. Richard Seaver and Helen R. Lane (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1972), 26.
  6. ^ Patrick Waldberg, Georges Malkine (Brussels: André de Rache, 1970), p. 40.
  7. ^ Waldberg, pp. 9-10.
  8. ^ Louis Aragon, "Demeure de Georges Malkine," Lettres françaisesno. 132, 8 (1-7 avril 1970), pp. 3-4.
  9. ^ Penelope Rosemont, ed. Surrealist Women: An International Anthology. Austin: Univ. of Texas, 1998, p. xlv.
  10. Archives numérisées de l'état civil de Paris, acte de naissance no 5/3079/1898, avec mention marginale du décès (consulté le 15 juin 2012)
  11. Sophie Malexis, Émile Savitry, un photographe de Montparnasse, Éditions 5 Continents, 2011, 112 pages, p.15.

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