Sacha Chimkevitch Biography

Sacha Chimkevitch




Painter and printmaker Sacha Chimkevitch was born to a Persian Armenian mother and Polish father in Paris, August 17, 1920. He was the last in a long line of trained architects in the Chimkevitch family, though he did not pursue the subject after discovering his love of painting. Chimkevitch attended the Alsatian School before enrolling in architecture courses, all the while teaching himself how to paint in watercolors. While a student, he began going to jazz shows at popular Parisian clubs starting in 1937. At the Swing Club in Paris he met some of the leading musicians and artists of the era, including Stephane Grapelli and the Rheinhardt brothers among others, and was introduced to Black American musicians and performers who introduced him to American jazz LPs. 

In 1938 the manager of the Swing Club, Guy Rinaldo, commissioned a poster from 
Chimkevitch. This was to be the beginning of his excursion in the art world;however, the following year he was drafted into the 5th Regiment of Engineers in Versailles as France entered World War II. Not long after, he was taken prisoner by the Germans in Cassal. Chimkevitch would try to escape twice; at other times, he would manage to sneak out long enough to listen to Dutch jazz musicians playing in cafes, defying the orders of the German police.

Following the war and his release from the labor prison, he found his footing in Paris once more. While still studing painting on his own time, he enrolled in l'Ecole de Beaux-Arts to study engraving under Lemagny, and also enrolled in life drawing courses at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere. He then returned to printmaking, now under the tutelage of Edouard Goerg from 1948 to 1951. He began self-promoting his work at record shops and cafes; this led to several exhibitions throughout Paris, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Roybet Fould Museum, and the Maison de la chimie (the House of Chemistry). He also found an audience in the countryside of Caen, where he took inspiration from the landscape and rural street scenes. However, he was most known for his jazz-inspired abstractions.

By the 1980s he had establishd a career as both a fine and commerical artist and had exhibited in the United States, Germany, and Scotland. Among his major commissions were advertisements for the French government, Sud Aviation, and Aerospatiale; decorative panels for the Hong Kong branch of Air France; and literary illustrations for poems by Guillaume Apollinaire and Charles Baudelaire, as well as a luxury edition for La Nouvelle Librarie de France. Always, however, 
Chimkevitch came back to jazz in his long years as an artist. He became friends with Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus, and others, and his work was commissioned by jazz record companies for covers of albums for several decades. 

Chimkevitch donated his works and collection of records to the Camille-Claudel Museum in 1999. The museum held two retrospectives of his work, in 2001, and after his death on April 14, 2006.