Russia • 1854−1937

Yudel (Yuri, Yehuda, Yudl) Moishevich (Moiseevich) Pan - June 5, 1854, Novoalexandrovsk, Kovno province, Russian - March 1, 1937, Vitebsk, Belorussian SSR. Russian and Belarusian artist, teacher, "father of the Jewish Renaissance" in the art of the early twentieth century.

Yudel Pan was the teacher of a whole galaxy of brilliant Jewish artists: Chagall's mark, El Lissitzky, Joseph Tzadkin, David Yakersonilya Chashnik and others. It was Yudel Pan who created the first art school in Vitebsk, which also became the first Jewish art institution. Although provincial, Pan's school enabled Jewish children to receive an art education without having to travel to Vilna, Odessa or St. Petersburg. Yudel Pan was a legend of Vitebsk, its landmark; he was known and respected by all the townspeople.

Peculiarities of the work of the artist Yudel Pan: A terrific portraitist and colorist, Pan was in love with the work of Rembrandt. The works of the artist himself can be called an ethnographic poem dedicated to the life and life of members of the Jewish community of Vitebsk. Yudel Pan's paintings depict Jews - bakers and beggars, builders and rabbis, showing their interests, life, daily work and history.

Famous paintings by the artist Yudel Pan: "Divorce." (1907), "Letter from America." (1903), "The Old Tailor" (1910), Portrait of an Old Jew (1910-е), "The Jew-watcher." (1924), Portrait of Marc Chagall (1914), "The Goat House." (1920s).

Childhood and Youth
Yehuda Movshevich Pan was born into a poor family of a Jewish craftsman. His father died when the boy was only four years old. In due course he was sent to a Jewish religious elementary school, a cheder, and afterwards to a synagogue school. At this time Pan's mother dies.

Young Yehuda's love of drawing was manifested very early on; Pan drew at every opportunity, despite the Torah's prohibition against depicting living things, for which he was repeatedly beaten by his strict teachers.

After school, Yudel Pan goes to Dvinsk (now Daugavpils, Latvia). Here he gets a job as a house painter, painting walls and ceilings; later he is entrusted with painting signboards. Even here, the young man does not abandon his hobby - he sketches from life, redraws illustrations from books. Young Yudel Pan got his first "artistic" fee from his master painter. Decorating the lobby, he showed his ingenuity by drawing the handrails on the real stairs. The authenticity of the accomplished work not only misled the master, but also convinced him of the apprentice's great artistic abilities. For this "joke," Pan received a huge sum of money from the master - 25 rubles - and made the final decision to enroll in a real school, where he would really learn to draw. The risk was great for a Jewish young man who barely knew Russian, but Pan made the decision and in 1879 went to the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg.

At the Academy of Arts
Despite the fact that Pan's works were favorably received by the commission, he did not enter the Academy at the first attempt due to his lack of knowledge of the Russian language. A year later, on his second attempt, Yudel Pan still passed the entrance exams, and he was admitted to the class of Pavel Chistyakovhe studied under him from 1881 to 1886. Another teacher of the young man was the sculptor Nikolay Laveretsky. At the same time Pan was studying at the Academy Valentin Serov, Mikhail Vrubel, Ilya Repin - the future brightest stars of Russian painting.

After completing his studies at the Academy, Jewel Pan went to his homeland; he lived in Dvinsk, then moved to Riga. Here he met Baron Korf, who invited him to work at his Kreuzburg (Krustpils) estate. Located between Vitebsk and Dvinsk, the Korf family estate became a temporary home for Yudel Pan for almost 5 years.

It was not easy for a Jew of modest means to obtain papers to live outside the Pale of Settlement; nevertheless, with the help of friends and wealthy patrons, in 1896 the artist managed to obtain a passport entitling him to reside permanently in St. Petersburg. But the thought of his own drawing school never left Yudel Pan. His friends were aware of this and did their best to enlist the support of the authorities in the capital. The possibility of organizing a school and creating normal conditions for life and work led Pan to Vitebsk in 1891. His dream came true: in 1892 in Vitebsk opened Pan's private School of Drawing and Painting - essentially the first Jewish art school in Russia, which existed until 1918.

As Marc Chagall recalls in his book My Life, "...the first time I learned of Pan's existence was when I was riding the streetcar down to Cathedral Square, and a white sign on a blue background caught my eye: "Pan's School of Painting. "Wow," I thought. - What a cultured city our Vitebsk is!"

Mature Years. Teaching
After moving to Vitebsk, thanks to the intercession of his friends, Yudel Pan got an apartment in the center of the city. In the big room he set up a workshop, and in the small room he lived with his sister, who ran a rudimentary household; there was also a personal workshop. The walls of the big room, in which Peng worked with his students, were covered from floor to ceiling with his paintings, sketches and studies - the artist used them as methodological examples. Yuri Moiseyevich, as he called himself and signed himself, did not like to sell his works. The tuition fee in Pan's class was small, and when selecting students, the artist paid attention to a child's desire to learn to draw, guided by his interest in art.

Talented children from poor families studied with Pan for free: their lessons were paid for by Adolf Livenson, owner of the brewery and director of the Levinpray joint-stock company. Pan's studio was usually attended by no more than 25 people, and most were from Jewish families, which is not surprising: more than 52% of Vitebsk's population was Jewish.

The School's advertisement stated: "The program of classes in drawing and painting is conditioned by the knowledge and skills of each entrant. Subjects of study: drawing geometric bodies, ornaments and plaster figures and painting from life".

Classes at the school were held five days a week. Yudel Pan, like many of his students, celebrated the Sabbath, went to synagogue, and devoted Sundays to working on his own paintings. As the sculptor Zair Azgur recalled, "Yuri Moiseevich loved to teach and liked to have many students. It even inspired his own creativity.

Pan's social life
Pan's interests, like those of the School which he headed, extended far beyond the life of Vitebsk. Yudel Pan carried on an extensive correspondence, his paintings and those of his pupils were in demand and were exhibited in Moscow and St. Petersburg, in particular at the Academy of Arts in St. Petersburg, as well as in Paris and Berlin. Pan took part in the first Vitebsk charity art exhibition for the benefit of the Society for the Care of Children. The artist maintained constant ties with the Jewish Society for the Encouragement of Artists and repeatedly participated in exhibitions, meetings and charity events of this organization.

Students loved their teacher, many saw him as a father and later always remembered Yudel Pena; the artist maintained an extensive correspondence with his graduates, leaving behind a large archive. He not only supported them in their creative pursuits, but also provided material assistance to those students who left to continue their artistic education.

Personal Life
Immersed in creativity, Yudel Pan seemed not to fall in love with real women, preferring to paint them. According to contemporary accounts, he was in love with the governor's daughter and created about a dozen portraits of her. The romance, which took place in secret from public eyes, interrupted with the departure of the girl in Paris in 1905. Since then Pan has lived "in the company of the creatures dearest to his heart - portraits and paintings. Modest and silent, Pan did not like noisy artistic gatherings. The artist himself was loved and respected without exception by all the townspeople; thanks to his merits before the municipal authorities, he had his own lodges in the theater and the cinematograph. The artist's life was modest and even ascetic. Asked once by his niece why he did not sell his paintings to improve his financial situation, Pan replied: "Baby, I don't trade on my inspiration."

The Revolution and the Soviets
The hot winds of the revolution swept away private endeavors, including the Yudel Pan Drawing School. But the artist was not idle: in 1918, Marc Chagall, Pan's favorite pupil, came to Vitebsk with the mandate of the Commissioner for the Arts. In the same year, Chagall organized the Vitebsk People's Art School (VNHU), where he invited his beloved teacher to teach, as well as his colleagues - Lazar Lisitsky, Vera Yermolaevaand in 1919 he came to Kazimir Malevich. Even though Academician Yudel Pan was not always comfortable against the background of the Suprematist-avant-garde battles of Chagall and Malevich, he stayed out of the scandals of progressive youth and still taught students as he had done all his life; his home studio became a branch of the Higher National Academy of Art. In 1922, Yudel Pan was elected vice chancellor for academic affairs and a member of the board. A year later, after the arrival of a new director (the sculptor Mikhail Kerzin) and the reorganization of the school into a technical school, Pan, not accepting the innovations, left his post. He found a job teaching drawing at a mechanical college, barely making ends meet on a miserable part-time basis. But he had plenty of time for creativity - what else did Yudel Pan need? All he needed was money for paints and brushes and a simple snack. He engaged with several students in his studio on Gogolevskaya Street privately and worked, still rejecting offers to sell paintings. He also refused the Tretyakov Gallery.

In 1927, on the occasion of his 30th anniversary of creative activity, Yudel Pan was awarded the title of Honored Jewish Artist. As it was written in the accompanying note, "Painter Pan is a singer of the old, already dying Jewish way of life. His dozens of works are incomparably distant from the October Revolution, from the Belorussian peasant's hut. But it is - albeit old - a brick of cultural heritage, which is laid collectively by the entire population of Belarus: Belarusians, Jews, Poles, and Russians. And that's why they are dear to the workers and peasants.

The end of life's journey
The last year of his life the artist spent alone, practically did not take students, but continued to work: painting did not let him indulge in despondency. By the 40-th anniversary of creativity the artist was assigned a pension. In the picture "Self-Portrait with Muse and Death" (1934) Pan depicted himself sitting between life and death; it is as if he hesitates to take sides with one of them, listening to the melodies of the opposing forces.

Yudel Pan tragically died at the age of 83. His body was discovered on March 1, 1937, and the circumstances of his death are still unclear. The authorities blamed this terrible atrocity on his relatives, who wanted to get hold of the artist's inheritance, including his paintings. There were rumors that the artist died at the hands of the commissar, whose wife he had depicted naked in a painting.

During his long life Yudel Pan created about a thousand and a half paintings. He bequeathed his works to his native Vitebsk. After his death a gallery of about 800 works was created in the city. After the evacuation during World War II not the entire collection returned to Vitebsk: today the local Museum of Art has only one room devoted to Judel Pan.

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