Studio interior with mirror

Oil on canvas
162 x 130 cm
Musée Cantini, Marsella


The work of Avigdor Arikha has a manifest personal component. On the one hand it is marked by the vicissitudes of his life: after escaping the Holocaust thanks to his drawings of deportation scenes he was brought to Palestine in 1944; he then embarked on a long period of wandering from one city to another, and from one country to another, in a quest for his own identity. On the other hand, there is a continuing presence in his work of elements of his most intimate world — his studio, his apartment and his family and friends.

In the 1970s Arikha began a series of self-portraits, a genre he continues to work in. In this work he portrayed himself as a face in a mirror. As one of the interpretations of Las Meninas has it, the mirror reflects what the painter paints. Another point of contact with the Velázquez is that both present the artist and his process of creation. The influence of Vermeer is also apparent in the light that comes through the window on the left and the intimacy that envelops the figure; this solitary figure, in a space that oscillates between the warmth of the light and the coldness of the colour, also invokes the work of Edward Hopper (characterized by its portrayal of the loneliness of contemporary American life). Arikha’s art is grounded in what he calls ‘observation painting’, an art that stems from the need to conserve lived experience, and, starting from life, is created spontaneously in a single session.

The artist’s admiration for Velázquez is apparent not only in his work, but also in a film about the painter he made for the BBC in 1992 and in his essay ‘Velasquez, peintre des peintres, peintre royal’.

Avigdor Arikha

Radautz (Bukovina, now part of Romania), 1929

A survivor of the Holocaust, he moved to Palestine in 1944. Ten years later he moved to Paris. His work has evolved from figuration to abstraction. In 1965 he gave up painting and devoted himself to drawing. In 1973 he returned to painting in a spontaneous, realistic style, without forgetting the lessons of his abstract phase. As an art historian he has curated a number of exhibitions.