Esther Carp, Himlen in opgrunt (Lodz, Editions Achrid, 1921), mahJ
Until 10 December 2023
In the words of critic Chil Aronson, Esther Carp (1897-1970) is "one of the most gifted women painters of the École de Paris". On the occasion of the recent donation of five works and a set of archives, the mahJ invites you to rediscover the artist through a presentation combining its own collections and external loans.
Born in Skierniewice, not far from Warsaw, in 1897, Esther Carp grew up in a family of musicians. Influenced by the chromatic force of Van Gogh, she soon developed a singular body of work, first with the avant-garde group Yung Yiddish, then moving freely on the Parisian scene in the 1920s with colorful compositions often taking as their theme music, memories of religious scenes or, more intimately, her studio bedroom.
In 1940, in a very fragile state, she spent her first time in a psychiatric hospital, which enabled her to escape deportation. This internment was followed by others, including one from 1964 to 1970, the year of her death. Despite this, Esther Carp pursued her intensely luminous work to the very end.
This special display comprises some twenty paintings, accompanied by several drawings, presented in two rooms at the end of the permanent collection.
Throughout her Parisian life, Esther Carp has always lived in precarious conditions. A single room serves as her bedroom and studio. This narrow space, where bed and easel cohabit, is for her a privileged subject of expression whose vivid colors contrast with the destitution of reality.
In 1919 in Lodz, a group of young Jews got together and created the magazine Yung-Yiddish, whose subtitle "Poems in Words and Drawings" testifies to a new approach, the search for a national Jewish style in art and a strong attachment to the Yiddish language. Among them were poets Moyshe Broderzon, Chaïm Krol and Rachel Lipstein, and artists Yankel Adler, Ida Brauner and Esther Carp. Three collections were published by Editions Achrid, with linocuts allowing for hand highlights on each copy. Each book is illustrated by a woman artist.
The psychiatric hospital
Esther Carp was first admitted to the Villejuif asylum in August 1941, then transferred to the Asile national des convalescents de Saint-Maurice, where she remained until October 1944. It is possible that the length of this stay was justified by the institution's desire to protect the artist from any risk of deportation. On September 23, 1963, she was involuntarily committed to the Hôpital Sainte-Anne, then to the Perray-Vaucluse asylum. In June 1964, she asked to be transferred to Saint-Maurice in the department of Professor Henri Baruk, who had followed her, and who had been able to care for weakened deportees hospitalized in the 1950s and 1960s.Esther Carp was diagnosed as suffering from "delusional psychosis with an interpretative basis in a paranoid personality with anxious instability". She claims to have suffered persecution from her neighbors, and asserts that everyone is out to harm her and copy her paintings. In October 1967, her involuntary placement became voluntary. She then received a small pension from the Jewish Committee for Social Action and Reconstruction (Cojasor), founded in 1945. Throughout her hospitalization, Esther Carp continued to draw, almost without anyone knowing, refusing to show her work.
The Marc Vaux collection
Renewed interest in Esther Carp's work is rooted in a study of the Marc Vaux collection at the Centre Pompidou. A "photographer of artists", he documented artistic life from the 1920s until his death in 1971. Of the thousands of glass plates preserved by Marc Vaux, the works of Esther Carp are among the best represented. These images testify both to the abundance of her work and to her desire to keep a record of all her works for fear of being copied. This also explains the handwritten note "not to be copied" on the back of his works.For reasons of economy, several canvases were photographed on a single glass plate.
20th Century galleries
Rates and reservation
MahJ ticket to permanent collection and exhibitions:
> Full rate: 10 €
> Reduced rate: 7 € (18-25 year non European Union residents)
Purchase your entrance ticket:
> Online ticketing*
> On site, at mahJ’s ticketdesk (from Tuesday to Saturday, from 11 am to 5 pm)
> By phone, (33)1 53 01 86 57 (Tuesday and Wednesday from 10h30 am to 1h pm)
* Secured payment by crebit card