Arbit Blatas (LITHUANIAN, 1908-1999)
Arbit Blatas’s parents were piano merchants and did not oppose their son’s artistic career. When he was young, he studied drawing in Pottava, at the palace of Lithuania’s governor, which was transformed into an educational center for children.
In 1924, he left for Berlin and took drawing classes at the School of Fine Arts. He arrived in Paris in 1925. He settled in Montparnasse on rue de la Gaîté and met Sylvia Satenstein who he married in 1933.
Following an exhibition at the Mouradian-Vallotton gallery in 1934, art dealer Pierre Matisse offered to exhibit his paintings in New York.
In 1935, thanks to Krémègne, the artist discovered Céret, Collioure, and Banyuls in the south of France.
During World War II, Blatas emmigrated to the United States. He later acquired American nationality.
After the war was over, Blatas lived both in Europe and in the United States. In 1967, the Musée de l’Orangerie followed André Malraux’s advice and purchased a bronze sculpture representing the painter Soutine (currently in a garden in the 14th arrondissement).
Blatas remarried the opera singer and stage director Regina Resnik. Between 1975 and 1984, he designed opera sets and costumes.
In 1990, the artist donated forty-one portraits of School of Paris artists to the Musée des Années Trente in Boulogne-Billancourt, which are kept in a room dedicated to him. Active until the very last day, Blatas was an eternal polyglot traveler (he spoke Russian, Polish, French, English, Italian, German, Yiddish, and Hebrew). In spring 1998, he wished to return to his hometown of Kaunas, on the occasion of the great retrospective dedicated to him.
Arbit Blatas died on April 27, 1999 at his home in Manhattan.