The Orloff family emigrated from Ukraine to Palestine in 1905. Initially a dressmaker, Chan Orloff left for Paris to study fashion in 1910 and worked for the couturière Paquin. To develop her talent for drawing, she enrolled at the Petite École (the future École des Arts Décoratifs), whose free tuition had recently become available to women. She also studied sculpture at Académie Vassilieff, where she became friends with Chaim Soutine and Ossip Zadkine. Her meeting with Amedeo Modigliani and her interest in Cubism transformed her sculptures, characterised by their simplified volumes and polished surfaces imbuing them with great gentleness.
The family and motherhood are two recurrent themes in Chana Orloff’s work. Here, the sculpted block is dominated by the hieratic figure of the father. The mother’s face is simplified to the extreme, reduced to the single, continuous arcade of the eyebrows and nose. The child is completely intertwined in the mother’s body.
In this work one can see echoes of the personal history of the artist, who married the poet Ary Justman (1888-1919) in 1916. He served as a stretcher bearer during the war and died of the Spanish flu a few months after the birth of their son Élie in 1918.
This bronze was donated to the mahJ by Chana Orloff’s grandchildren. In her memory they restored her house and studio, designed by Auguste Perret, in Villa Seurat in Paris’s 14th arrondissement to open it to the public.
The mahJ also has a collection of woodcuts by the artist published in 1919, mainly portraits of women she knew.
The mahJ organised the "Chana Orloff. Le retour. 1945" exhibition in 2013.