Real name: Julius Mordecai Pincas
Jules Pascin was born in Bulgaria but soon afterwards, as a young child, moved to Bucharest, where he grew up, and where his family lived. He spent most of his life in Paris, where he died in 1930. We classify him as a Romanian painter, as his formative years were spent in Romania rather than in Bulgaria. Also, he was apparently a ‘Romanian (Ashkenazy) Jew’ rather than a ‘Bulgarian (Sephardic) Jew’, and the Balkan Jews tended to draw a distinction between the two types and arrange their social lives accordingly. In 1905, at the age of twenty, Julius made an anagram of his surname Pincas by shuffling the letters, and created the new name Pascin for himself, which he used from then on. In December, 1905, he moved to Paris, where he lived as an artist until his death in 1930.
Pascin was certainly one of the leading figures in Montparnasse, and a friend of another leading Montparnassian, the Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi. An interesting account of him has been preserved in the memoirs of another Romanian Diaspora personality, the film director Jean Negulesco (Things I Did, and Things I Think I Did). This account has tended not to be noticed by art historians.
During the First World War, Pascin found it necessary to flee Europe in order to avoid being drafted into the Romanian Army, which could have been enforced in Paris. He was thus similar to Tristan Tzara and the Janco Brothers in fleeing Romanian military service, which they successfully evaded by living in neutral Switzerland. During the War, Pascin emigrated to the United States and travelled around America and Cuba, a period when his drawing style was strong, structural and somewhat angular. The Foundation owns two of his Cuban pictures. Later, upon returning to Paris in 1920 (as an American citizen), Pascin’s drawing tended to become softer and more fluid, with his outlines of figures often being rather vague, and even occasionally diaphanous and pale. To a certain extent, that style may have been intentional as a means of conveying the dreamy languor of the many prostitutes whom he drew in bed or in various stages of undress. Pascin killed himself in 1930 in his studio in Paris, much to his friends’ astonishment, as they could not understand his motive. Pascin’s favourite haunt was the Café de Dome in Montparnasse, seen in his ink sketch.