Nineteen-year-old Ossip Zadkine, from a family of Smolensk boat builders, arrived in Paris in 1909 with a pipe, a Webster’s dictionary, a copy of The Lives of Great Men, and a suitcase filled with vivid memories of his native Russian forests. “I entered into a lifelong marriage with the vertical column of a pine tree trunk,” he would later say about his quest to tease movement, poetry, and philosophy from the beloved wood that had surrounded him as a boy.
“The Dreamer of the Forest,” an exhibition opening at the Musée Zadkine, in the artist’s former home and atelier, sheds new light on his fascination with nature sauvage and its mythical and spiritual influences on civilization. Juxtaposing works derived from similar animating principles, the curators have set modern greats like Gauguin, Giacometti, and Rousseau alongside contemporary artists such as Ariane Michel and Hicham Berrada. Each in some way carries forth Zadkine’s transformational elixir of human and plant, rational and enigmatic, smooth and rough, tender and aggressive.