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Boris Taslitzky


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French painter. He was born in Paris, the son of Russian political refugees who had left after the abortive 1905 revolution. A political militant, in 1933 he joined the Association of Revolutionary Writers and Artists and in 1935 the French Communist Party. He responded to the demands of the Communist writer Louis Aragon for a ‘revolutionary romanticism’ in his painting The Strikes of May 1936 (1936, Tate), which celebrated the strikes which followed the election of the Popular Front government. Christopher Green has stated that such paintings contributed to the ‘folklore’ around the mass industrial action of that time. In November 1941 Taslitzky was arrested and later was sent to the concentration camp at Buchenwald, where he made clandestine drawings. These were published in 1946 as 111 Drawings from Buchenwald. After the war he initially painted in a highly photographic manner, following closely Socialist Realist prescription, as in Les Délégués (1948) depicting miners who had been involved in the strikes of that year. The Death of Daniele Casanova (1950; 1949 study in Tate) showed the death of the wife of a Communist party official like a secular Pietà. At the Salon d'Automne in 1951, Riposte (Tate), which depicted striking dockers in Marseilles, was removed by the police. In 1952 he travelled to Algeria, then still a French colony, to make paintings exposing the poor conditions under which the people lived. M.-J. Sirach, ‘A time when Boris Taslitzky drew the unspeakable’, in L'Humanité (12 December 2005).

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