At the beginning of February, our Islamic Art department will be organising, at Espace Tajan, an auction in homage to Moses Levy, painter and engraver, as well as founding member of the school of Tunis. The auction, scheduled to occur on Thursday the 8th of February 2018, will be preceded by several days of exhibition, dedicated to the artist.
Moses Levy, an Anglo-Italian painter and engraver, was born in Tunis in 1885. Raised in an environment combining Western, Arab and Jewish cultures, he is viewed as one of the pioneers of the genre in Tunisia and one of the precursors of the current of the School of Tunis. Moses Levy arrived in Italy with his family in 1895. From then on, he regularly moved across the country, finally settling in Rigoli, where he painted his first painting “Il Pilone” in 1903. He joined the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence, where he was instructed by the likes of Lorenzo Fattori, and whilst there, devoted himself to engraving and painting. In 1907, he exhibited the harvest of olives at the VII Biennale of Venice, which marked the beginning of his notoriety.Upon his father’s death in 1908, he returned to Tunis with his mother, although he returned regularly to Rigoli, where he met influential cultural characters of the time, such as Enrico Pea, the author, Giuseppe Ungaretti, the poet, and Lorenzo Viani, the painter and his friend. This environment encouraged him to enroll in “The School Free Naked” in Florence, and then move to Viareggio in 1917, where he opened a small studio and painted many landscapes, including the beach of Viareggio, one of the flagship themes of the artist. In 1928, he decided to join his friends Kisling and Chagall in Paris, settling in Montparnasse, near La Ruche. From then on, he would be continuously travelling back and forth between Tunis, Viareggio and Paris. But it was in Tunis that he would eventually organise his first personal exhibition at the Galerie Canto-Durrieu. He became friends with Pierre Boucherle, Jules Lellouche and Antonio Corpora, who would become his partners in 1949, during the creation of the “School of Tunis,” reference to the painting in Northern Africa. Over the following years, he continued to travel between the two shores of the Mediterranean Sea, intensifying his artistic production. In 1963, his work was presented in New York at the Parker Exhibition of Contemporary Italian Painting. He died on April 2nd 1968 in his home in Viareggio, Italy.
Moses Levy plays a great deal with colour in his work; the blue of the sky and sea, as well as the warm colors of walls sheltering interiors that one presumes to be cool, the colorful costumes of African characters, the beaches (Viareggio in particular), or the elegant silhouettes of women and children. This piece “noisy and fragrant” is still found at fairs and markets. Levy knew how to capture movement without freezing it, portray smells by suggesting them, to testify without voyeurism but with great intimacy, through the combination of several cohabiting populations, and the beauty and the dignity of the women. He therefore favors movement with still lives, which are not numerous in his production: “Moses Levy has taken on this thousand-year-old heritage of the Italian mantle of lyrical dandyism, meeting it with a rare melancholy, elegance and a mysterious grandeur [...] Scrutiniser of the world, a great draftsman and engraver, he knew how to combine, on his palette, without any prettiness and even with a certain rigor, broken tones which belonged only to him.”