Vulgarity, gross over-elaboration, impurity of line. 18th century crown for Torah scroll in silver and precious stones Chagall – Portrait of the Artist’s Mother   

The corruption of taste



‘Modern Art’

THE DISTURBING manifestation ‘Modern Art’ just about finished off French national art, the end of which was heralded by the death of Degas in 1917. To most of the public ‘Modern Art’ is still synonymous with the weird and incomprehensible; others, it fills with boredom, and to the more gullible, ‘Modern Art’ somehow achieves a kind of engaging incompetence like a child learning to walk.

The first revolutionary art movement began with the Fauves or “wild men” led by Matisse who at that time had reached middle-age without any marked success. During 1905-06 the art world was shocked by Fauvist exhibitions flaunting extravagant colour in deliriums of unrestrained “expression” which successfully annihilated drawing. The movement lasted for two years.

Next came Braque and Picasso who between 1907 and 1914 created cubism – a boring manifestation into which Ozenfant (1866-1966) managed to infuse a dignity akin to that found in the stylized forms of certain oriental carpets upon which people happily tread.

The daring nature of these various ventures into a kind of dilettante world which could be boldly legitimized and encouraged by the written word and into the bohemian atmosphere of which the average man did not care to intrude, seems to have set the stage for the eruption – almost entirely from the ghettoes of eastern Europe – of the so-called School of Paris.

It was an impressive assemblage of God’s Chosen, a dozen of them born between 1884 and 1900, including Modigliani, Chagall and Soutine. Art literature calls them “romantics,” “lyricists” and “passionate individuals,” but in a more restrained vein we hear they had “tormented souls” with their work portraying a certain sickness of life – something dark and irrational (Modigliani) for a generation eager for vivid sensations and pleasures.

But the term ‘School of Paris’ gradually came to have a looser application which signified avant garde painting of almost any kind.


In some extreme cases, such as the first 1910 abstracts of Kandinsky (without actual proof we may suspect Jewish blood somewhere in his merchant family), embarrassed members of the public are reminded of effects on the pavement after treading in it – until with a shock it is recalled that on 21 October 1980 in Christie’s, NY, lot 233 (entitled DELUGE II) by Kandinsky fetched $950,000.

To-day this sort of stuff seems to have reached the end of the road, for what could be avanter garder than mere canvas enclosed in a frame? This depraved movement towards annihilation was set in motion and maintained by Jews and one can perceive here a kind of revenge for all the healthy checks imposed upon this race.

Nevertheless, the ungodly company of Poles, Russians, Bulgarians, Lithuanians and just one Italian found the right atmosphere in Paris, where at that time anything ‘went’ in art, and conveniently there was sufficient opposition to novelty to activate the flow of expectant Jewish andrenalin eager, as always, for strife.

The Jews were at last able to express their disenchantment with life – Modigliani with the portrayal of mild idiocy, Chagall with silliness that was upgraded by smart writing and Soutine to wallow or writhe in the sickness of his own mind.

Crude colour and outrageous distortion were the simple gambits that subdued the uninitiated beholder who, at the same time, had the printed word to assure him he was in the presence of great art and not just maunderings from the lunatic asylum or the psychiatrist’s consulting room. It was not long before further manipulation in the auction room was to furnish the important commercial stamp of authenticity on this rubbish.

Modigliani who died in Paris in 1920 from tuberculosis and whose squalid life assisted by drugs and alcohol has been highly dramatized, found his particular successful formula in extreme distortion with which he poured contempt on many of his fellows.


Modigliani’s portraits consist of a gallery mainly of village idiots or as R. H. Wilenski has put it, “...essentially original – the direct exteriorizing of his personal experience by means expressly fashioned for that end.” In plain English this means that Modigliani’s personal experience of, say, The Girl in a White Collar or La Chocolatiere was an egg perched on a kind of pumpkin. The elongated and stylized features express no kind of life; the slotted eyes belong to Death.

They are dubbed “portraits,” but they are not much in advance of a Cycladic marble head of 2500 BC. Perhaps the human ephemerals who frequently acted as models would not or could not hit back at this divesting of human dignity. Perhaps they were impervious to insult. Possibly they thought it was a bit of a joke. Certainly it was an expensive one.

Had you attended a Sotheby’s sale on 4 July last year [1981] when Modigliani’s Mme Zborowska (the wife of a Jewish collector) came under the hammer – and had you twitched your nose at the wrong moment, it would have set you back a cool £100,000. It might not have been much of a consolation afterwards if some critic had found some sort of mournful elegance paraded in a pumpkin and repeated in the egg surmounting it.

Marc Chagall is different. His stuff is for the nursery wall – something that might be put into a jumble sale when the kids grow up. That is until the hired critic reaches for the pen, and with a Mauve Circus going at £115,000 or Red And Yellow Bouquet at a modest seventy-five grand, small wonder the critic dips la plume dans le Bull!

In the art of writing, gibberish is immediately spotted. Painting, however, is more difficult to authenticate and lies wide open to the manipulator and to the seductive activities of the Jewish broker. Art jargon is his formidable weapon and difficult to combat because nobody can understand it; you cannot refute the mouthings of a baboon.

This art clap-trap that is supposed to reveal some Jewish genius is given a deceptive kind of authenticity and especially as Lindsay observed when it appears between glossy illustrated covers and is cunningly placed in the dealer’s front window between a volume say on Titian and another on Degas. We have been conned yet again by God’s Chosen.


Looking frankly at Chagall’s Clock With A Blue Wing one suspects that no great art values are really enshrined here. It would seem to be a kind of doodling – the art one pulls off on the notepad beside the telephone while listening to an account of what her cat had for supper. On reflection, Hieronymous Bosch did much the same thing as Chagall three centuries ago but these even more horrible visions were projected with a technical skill far beyond the competence of any member of the School of Paris.

The critic, J. Lassaigne observes, “Chagall’s importance in modern art increases daily. In 1941 Andre Breton stressed the fact that already in 1911 Chagall’s work had broken down the barriers of the elements and the laws of physics.”

We say that Chagall flouted a basic stability in art which existed thanks to certain impositions placed upon art by sectors of society, but which at the same time never prevented the original genius from breaking through those restrictions without destroying the whole edifice.

Il Greco managed to impose his peculiar distorted vision of agony and acid on the then mighty Church; Rembrandt triumphantly ignored the social requirements of his well-fed patrons.

But Chagall screaming complete liberation has with his crude effects torn down the barriers of sanity and assisted by all that is arty-crafty opened the field of painting to a host of brush-wielding morons. With Jewish arrogance Chagall admits he is unteachable. “I got the impression,” he wrote, “that we were still scratching at the surface of things, that we were afraid to plunge into the chaos, afraid to smash and trample that surface underfoot... Down with naturalism, impressionism and realistic cubism! Welcome to our new madness!”

This madness can be seen to embrace a vulgar Jewish attempt to mystify and shock; hysterical efforts to reveal areas of the imagination that are simply too boring and irrational to others. The vacuous day-dreams of an uncomfortable Jew are not the stuff of great art.

The French critic Paul Valery noted “This modern painting has been made by writers; if they would only keep quiet it would disappear in a year.”

As an example of this kind of writing we may quote from an impudent Skira production, one of a series entitled The Taste of our Time (i.e. Jewish taste, or lack of it, thrust on the unsuspecting public!). It concerns Chagall’s Portrait of the Artist’s Mother (1914): “The small portrait of his mother, showing her on a divan, is a masterpiece of orange and brown, a simple color harmony creating an atmosphere of homely intimacy and filial devotion.” Thus writes the Jew Lionello Venturi for the Jewish firm of Skira!

But when we come to look at this masterpiece, what do we find?

What kind of a son, we humbly ask, would deliberately depict his mother’s face as an expressionless, baked potato? Presumably Chagall, to put it mildly, disliked his mother. Or is this really a typical Jewish expression of filial devotion? And is the undignified hippo-like form of Madame Chagall really on a divan at all? Rather she seems to be simulating a corpse suspended against a trivial floral background. Her lemon-yellow face indicates that this poor woman is in the last throes of jaundice which she has undoubtedly passed on to her son. If all this is “homely intimacy,” many timid people might prefer the vicinity of a leper colony. A more tasteless crucifixion scene has not appeared in art!


The Russian Jew, Chaim Soutine (1894-1943) was particularly disturbed. During his lifetime he somehow escaped being discovered and written-up and it would be unfair to call him an impostor. Soutine was just a nut-case who tried to relieve himself in paint. Like Modigliani, his ‘portraits’ have nothing to say about the sitter which they invariably insult. The human predicament is always Soutine screaming insanely.

Thanks ultimately to Jewish manipulation he has of course become expensive – around the £50,000 mark, which is a lot to pay for a wriggling horror in paint and for a complete rejection of life, from his ghastly landscapes to the degraded choirboys.

Other Jews of the School of Paris were Gottlieb, Zak, Kremegne, Mintchine and the passable Kisling. There were of course many others.

In a 1925 Mercure de France, Vanderpyl, the art critic, wrote in an article “Does a Jewish school of painting exist?”:

‘...but suddenly Israelite painters swarm. In the after-the-war-salons the Levys are legion. Maxime Levy, Irene and Flore Levy, Simon Levy, Geo. Levy-Say, Alkan Levy... without counting the Levys who prefer to exhibit under pseudonyms of less Hebraic assonance – which is one of the habits of the modern Jew – and without mentioning the Cohen, Bloch, Weill, Zadok etc. which one gleans from every page of the catalogues. Whence comes and so immediately, this desire to paint, among the descendants of the ten tribes...? Broking, which is the buying and selling of goods that have no fixed or current values is the typical trade of the Jew. The day that painting became for the many a speculative business the Jew came in...’

This accusation of Jewish commercial manipulations in the art market was met by silence.

Lindsay in Addled Art quotes Rene Guillouin in the Revue Hebdomadaire for January 1938 commenting on this Jewish racket:

‘In a few years they have become the all-powerful masters of a rich and beautiful domain, traditionally free, the kingdom of the spirit. They have their Press, for making and destroying reputations, and in every country their agents, who pretend to the title of collector, once a noble distinction, are but hucksters and revendors. They ‘place’ their ‘colts,’ as they call them in their ignoble jargon, in private collections, which accept, sometimes through vanity or weakness, sometimes for ready money, their presence for a time, hung side by side with authentic masterpieces. And they place them in the public collections, in certain museums, never hesitating to arrange a price, or even to present them, to assure for them the official stamp. And while they are busy raising the market price for the small living painter, they lower it for the great dead, buying their work underhand, as a guarantee against the crash which they have always to fear in their other speculations.

‘No words could be strong enough to denounce this last and supreme violation of the spirit at the hands of money.’

But the greatest destroyer of them all was Picasso. Oceans of adulation and incomprehensible jargon have been expended on this protean nightmare of a painter, and the flow continues. Any dissident voice is soon forgotten, but that of Sir Lionel Lindsay needs to be recalled. After pointing out that Picasso was born in Malaga in 1881 of Spanish, Jewish and Italian stock, Sir Lionel continues:

‘As a hierophant of novelty, he remains a representative figure, the unapproached quick-change performer who, at all costs, must astonish his audience.

‘Yet, except for his vitality, there is nothing very Spanish about his mind. Its mercurial restlessness, expediency, flashness, marks not the Andalusian but the Jewish constituent in his character: for he changes colour like a chameleon... At first a painter of promise, he soon became the freak, the world’s stunter. He was swift to recognize that the day was to the arriviste, and to paint well required too much time. The race was to the swift, and no-one knew better than the art-boy, Picasso, how to create wonderment swiftly and to bring the Press to his aid and the dealers to his feet. Each fresh audacity, each rabbit from the conjuror’s hat, made his shallow audience squirm with delight; and that sardonic mouth must have curled with satisfaction as Picasso watched the cod-eyed groundlings bite on his bait. He was sustained always by the actor’s vanity, and unable to live outside a blaze of publicity that stimulated his performance.

‘The earliest example of his work that I have seen (is) a thin imitation of Fortuny. After Fortuny came Steinlen, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cezanne, Puvis de Chavannes, Greco and the blue and red periods. Cubism he got from Braque, Negro art from Vlaminck... What do you make of it all? Can you find anywhere a personality seeking expression? Any particular vision that demands utterance? Or merely the spoilt child in the nursery... All these play-boy tricks would have mattered little if they had not been taken seriously, and, through the devices of dealers, found their way into public collections. Pursuing novelty, he is at the mercy of chance and, possessed by his daemon, is driven to seek distraction in change and deformations. Picasso is the complete nihilist. He can be copied, that is all. He can found no school, for the foundation of his work are the quicksands of opportunity. His place is in no gallery of fine art, but in the little museums devoted to social history.’

This devastating analysis of the world’s most talked-of painter may seem final. But it might be added that Picasso has done the greatest injury to art by his responsibility – also shared by the Jews of the Ecole de Paris – for creating a great confusion of values not only in the limited minds of the public but also in those of weak-minded critics and even in men who are normally perceptive and, one would hope, not susceptible to the blandishments and clamour of the paid manipulator.

Thus Herbert Read dubs Picasso as “careful as Ingres and massive as Michelangelo,” Chagall as “painting from the heart” (see illustration!) and Paul Klee as “a supreme draughtsman.” Thus everybody has become more and more confused in an ever-increasing welter of third-rate daubing and humbug, and any incipient taste has been undermined at the outset.

To end this article, it is only fair to let Picasso have the last words, written to his friend G. Pagin. They were published in the magazine Von Atelier Zu Atelier 1953, No. 5 and were later re-published in the Munich Süddeutsche Zeitung in December 1955.

Picasso’s confession sets the seal on much of the 20th century painting:

‘The time to look to Art for comfort and exaltation is past, but the over-refined, the rich and the busybodies trying to extract conclusive wisdom out of everything always hope to find something new, unique and unusual. Since the days of cubism and later I have endeavoured to satisfy these lovers and critics with those freakish ideas passing through my head and the less they understood the more they marvelled at me. While I amused myself with this sort of game I became famous and rich and that very quickly too. But when I am alone with myself I have no courage to consider myself an artist in the great and worthy sense. I am just a public joker who gained an insight into his days and has succeeded in exploiting the stupidity, vanity and avidity of his contemporaries. Of course my confession is bitter and painful but at least it has the advantage of being an honest one.’

From New Nation, No. 3, Autumn 1982

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