Léopold Survage (1879-1968)


Léopold Survage was born in Moscow in 1879. He began his career in the piano factory owned by his father and was trained as an apprentice piano maker.

He entered the School of Fine Arts in Moscow in 1901, producing his first work Moscow, in 1903. He moved to Paris in 1908, where he worked as a piano tuner at the Maison Pleyel and undertook courses at the Matisse and Colarossi Academies. His first exhibitions took part in 1911 and 1914, a time during which he met Apollinaire, André Salmon, and possibly Picasso.

In 1912, Survage painted The Colourful Rhythm, his first painting produced under the principles of 'coloured rhythm', an analogy between music and colourful visual form. However, the outbreak of World War One disrupted his practice and he was not able to continue with these works. He began sharing a studio with Amedeo Modigliani in 1917,but moved to Nice shortly after, where he was greatly influenced by the light the Mediterranean offered. With a new palette he painted dreamlike works which would open the way to his Surrealist painting that followed.

Survage returned to Paris in 1919, leaving behind the colour to produce works with more muted tones with an emphasis more on line and construction. He worked for the Russian Ballets of Sergei Diaghilev from 1922 and created tissue designs for Chanel and panels for the Railways Palace at the Exhibition of Arts and Techniques in Paris.

In 1925, like artists before such as Matisse, Survage discovered the port of Collioure, and would subsequently reside there for a few months a year, leading to another evolution in his painting. The light there helped him depict the volumes in his works, and his paintings increasingly became more figurative. Following Picasso and Derain, Survage felt obliged to revive the tradition of painting, returning to academic subjects and classical figures.

As a result of his contact with André Masson, Survage became increasingly charmed by symbols and mysticism during the 1930s. The curvilinear forms that had previously dominated his compositions came, once again, under the control of geometric structure.

Survage was inducted into France's Légion d'Honneur in 1963. He died on 31 October 1968 in Paris