Léopold Survage (1879 – 1968)
Léopold Survage was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1879. At the age of twenty two, in 1901, he attended the Moscow School of Fine Arts. He was strongly influenced at the time by the Russian avant-garde and exhibited with Alexander Archipenko, in the company of David Burlyuk, Vladimir Burlyuk, Mikhail Larionov, and Natalia Goncharova in 1907.
By 1908 Léopold Survage had settled in Paris with his wife where he briefly attended the short-lived art school run by Henri Matisse. He first showed his work in Paris in 1911 at the Salon d’Automne.
In the years preceding the First World War, Survage worked on an ambitious project producing coloured abstract compositions entitled Coloured Rhythm, which he planned to animate on film to evoke different emotions and sensations in the viewer. He visualised these abstract images flowing together to form “symphonies in colour” but due to the intervention of the First World War this project did not come to fruition. However, the series of paintings were exhibited at the Salon d’Automne in 1913 and the Salon des Indépendants in 1914.
From 1917 Survage shared a studio with Modigliani in Paris. Influenced by the Constructivist, Cubist and Surrealist movements, his paintings were a unique synthesis of all three. He produced highly structured oils and works on paper, full of colour and linked by a series of recurring images and symbols – man, sea, townscapes, flowers, windows, and birds. A move to Nice prompted a temporary change of style to rather more Neo-classical imagery, although towards the end of the 1930s, as a direct result of his contact with the artist André Masson, he once again became charmed by symbols and mysticism. This prompted a return to the curvilinear forms which dominated his compositions, and which were controlled by geometric structure.
Although predominately a painter, Survage also designed costumes and sets for Igor Stravinsky’s one act opera Mavra, first performed in Paris in 1922, and designed textiles for the House of Chanel in the 1930s.
Survage was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in 1963, and died in 1968.
Musée National d’Art Moderne Georges Pompidou, Paris
Museum of Modern Art, New York
San Fransisco Museum of Modern Art
National Museum of Art, Moscow
Musée du Petit Palail, Geneva
Musée des Beaux Arts, Lyon