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"Racoff" at the Musée Maillol in Banyuls-sur-Mer

The Maillol Museum in Banyuls-sur-Mer pays tribute to the painter Rastislaw Racoff from June 15 to October 29, 2023. Originally from Russia, he settled in Paris in the 1920s, drawn like many to what was then the international capital of art. However, unlike his Russian contemporaries such as Poliakoff or Staël, who are associated with the abstract painting of the School of Paris, Racoff asserts himself in a painting that is difficult to classify.

A Predetermined Vocation

Born in Saint Petersburg in 1904, Racoff grew up in Tomsk, a Siberian city, which he left during the Russian Revolution in 1918. His long exile first took him to Harbin, a Chinese city nicknamed the ‘Moscow of China,’ where he encountered a theater decorator who introduced him to painting. Although he studied law, he simultaneously pursued art history. It was during this time that he discovered Russian, Italian, Flemish, German, and French primitive artists, sparking his vocation as a painter.

Vue de l'exposition "Racoff"
View of the “Racoff” Exhibition at the Maillol Museum in Banyuls-sur-Mer from June 15 to October 29, 2023

The Parisian Success

Racoff eventually landed in Paris in the 1920s, the famous bohemian era when a significant Russian community formed in the capital. However, success did not come immediately, and he had to work on the side to make a living, initially as an illustrator and later as a framer. He always paid special attention to the framing of his works.

Over time, the Russian artist became increasingly Parisian. Wandering through the city, he immersed himself in its atmosphere and delved passionately into its historical past. He also managed to gather considerable documentation on Old Paris and its street views, becoming the pride of his library and a formidable tool for his work. In 1946, the Parisian Vendôme gallery organized his first exhibition, which was a resounding success. Feeling encouraged, Racoff devoted himself exclusively to painting. He met Dina Vierny in the early 1950s, who urged him to remove characters from his works and organized his first exhibition in her gallery in 1952. All the paintings were sold within days. The gallery subsequently organized four more exhibitions, showcasing his work in France and abroad. Before this first exhibition, the artist still doubted his abilities, and Dina Vierny recounted that at the beginning of their collaboration, Racoff sometimes hesitated to enter the gallery to deliver his works.

Vue de l'exposition "Racoff"
View of the “Racoff” Exhibition at the Maillol Museum in Banyuls-sur-Mer from June 15 to October 29, 2023

A Poetic and Mysterious Painter

Rakoff’s painting can be described as intimate, strange, and silent, infused with mysticism and a certain melancholy. His work is divided into several categories: urban landscapes, still life, and trompe-l’oeil. All are of incredible quality and precision, sometimes reminiscent of the German New Objectivity of the 1920s or the urban landscapes of the Dutch 17th century. A poetic and mysterious character emerges from his depopulated urban landscapes, while his still lifes sometimes flirt with a universe that blends surrealism and naive painting. It’s an uninhabited and past world, made of memories, as if the hustle and bustle of life had momentarily departed.

Quatre tableaux de Racoff représentant des vues de rues
Four paintings by Racoff

His paintings tell no stories, there is no narration; they are more like worlds or atmospheres and emotions that Racoff shows us. His works are indescribable, they don’t fit into any movement or category. They simply seek to reveal a highly personal, internal reality.

Tableau de Racoff intitulé "Nature morte aux fruits"
Still Life with Fruits
Tableau de Racoff intitulé "Trompe-l'oeil"

Unfortunately, art history has somewhat overlooked this artist who deserves to be brought to light, and the Maillol Museum in Banyuls-sur-Mer is delighted to participate in this wonderful rediscovery.

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Mentions légales | CGU | Données personnelles | Gestion des cookies

Musée Maillol, 2021

Mentions légales | CGU | Données personnelles | Gestion des cookies

Musée Maillol, 2021

Musée Maillol, 2021