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Aronson, Naum

ARONSON, NAUM

ARONSON, NAUM (1872/73–1943), graphic artist and sculptor. Aronson was born into a ḥasidic family in Kreslavka, Vitebsk province (today Kreslava, Latvia) and, as a child, received a traditional Jewish education. In 1889–91, he studied at the Vilna School of Drawing. Having settled in Paris in 1891, he worked as a stonemason at local sculpture workshops and studied both at École des Arts Décoratifs and at the F. Colarossi academy. In 1894, Aronson returned to Russia to serve in the army, but got an exemption and returned to France in 1896. In 1898, he joined the National Society for Fine Arts and participated in its exhibits as well as in exhibitions of other Paris salons. He exhibited his sculptures at the Berlin Secession and in London galleries. In 1900, he was awarded the second gold medal at the Paris World Show, and in 1905, the gold medal at the Liege International Show. He won a reputation as a leading impressionist sculptor. Residing mainly in France, Aronson remained active in Russian cultural life and regularly exhibited in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In 1901, he visited Yasnaya Polyana and did a bust of Leo Tolstoy and a number of portraits in graphics. In 1904, he was among the founders of the New Society of Artists in St. Petersburg. Prior to World War i, Aronson executed many sculptural portraits of prominent figures in Russian and European culture and politics. Many of his works treat "the Jewish theme," among them his composition Kiddush ha-Shem dedicated to the memory of victims of the *Kishinev pogrom. For all his fame and success in Europe, Aronson experienced antisemitism among art critics and was subjected to sanctions imposed by the authorities. The persecution only strengthened his national consciousness, which manifested itself in his active participation in Jewish cultural and public life. In 1912, in Paris, he helped a group of young Jewish artists from Russia; in 1915, he was among the founders and later a member of the Jewish Society for the Encouragement of the Arts and participated in its exhibit in 1916 in Petrograd. In 1917–22, Aronson executed a series of busts of Louis Pasteur that were domiciled in Paris and other European capitals and for which in 1924 he was awarded the National Order of the Legion of Honor (from 1938, Aronson was an officer of the Legion of Honor). His retrospective exhibition was held in 1926 in Paris. In the 1920s and 1930s, Aronson actively collaborated with Jewish cultural and public organizations in France. He showed his works at the Exhibition of Jewish Artists and Sculptors in 1924. From the late 1920s, he gave lecture courses on Jewish art at the Jewish People's University. From 1931, he was the chairman of the Union of Lithuanian Jews and participated in the World Congress of Jewish Art in Paris in 1937. In 1940, he fled occupied France to Portugal and later settled in the United States. From 1941, Aronson lived in New York, where he created a number of symbolic works dedicated to the historic fate of the Jewish people.

bibliography:

100 Contemporary American Jewish Painters and Sculptors (1947), 8; O.L. Leykind, K.V. Makhrov, and D.J. Severiukhin, Artists of Russian Diaspora: 19171939. Biographical Dictionary (1991), 104–6 (Rus.).

[Hillel Kazovsky (2nd ed.)]

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