Creative Process

Photo Credit: Lise Bloch-Morange

From Sculpture to Painting

David Malkin started to sketch in small notebooks at a young age, drawing caricatures of his professors and of the customers coming to the family hardware store. His sketching skills helped him to visualize his sculpture projects, especially in Florence when he worked on the form and the volume of the Hebrew alphabet.

In Paris, when he gradually returned to painting, Malkin first made preparatory sketches and then pictures in ink and gouache.

As a painter, he would explore his subjects in a variety of styles, as though he were practicing musical scales.

He shifted briefly from realism to cubism, and then concentrated on mastering the uses of color and creating an original, non-figurative universe.

Toward the end of his life, Malkin enjoyed revisiting his sculptures. He collaborated with the art caster Eric Jacot to reproduce and to patina a selection of his bronze works.

Malkin's pictorial work

Malkin painted on both canvas and paper until the middle of the 1960’s. He then definitively used paper as his material of choice. He painted on Japanese paper, velvet paper, card stock, fluted, corrugated and metallic paper. He distanced himself from common practices by choosing small atypical formats. David Malkin said jokingly of his own work that he created “big works in small sizes.”

Following in the footsteps of his father the chemist, Malkin would make his own colors. This personal palette allowed him to produce highly luminous compositions characterized by subtle and refined chromatic nuances.

Their brightness did not reflect a sense of calm or a lightness of being, however. Instead, he aimed to challenge our conditioned viewing habits: "The tragedy of human suffering is usually associated with black and other dark shades. From an artistic standpoint, it is more interesting to express that suffering with a bright palette. At first glance, you only see harmonies of colors and confetti of light. But if you allow yourself the time to linger, anguished faces and clamoring cries of despair will gradually emerge."

The Story of his Signatures

Malkin's Russian Jewish name was written using the Cyrillic or Hebrew alphabet. When Bessarabia became Romanian in 1918, all names were Latinized. As in Italian, the consonant “k” was transliterated as “ch.” Malkin thus became “Malchin.”

In 1934, when he emigrated to Palestine, which was then under British Mandate, his last name was written “Malkin” by the British administration.

In Italy, where he settled in 1947, his name was translated directly from Hebrew to Italian and once again became “Malchin.”

Upon his arrival in France in 1955, he discovered that this spelling of his name was pronounced in a disagreeably different way. In the mid-1960’s, he took steps to recover the original spelling of his signature and “Malkin” became his artist’s name again.

This is why until 1947, his works are signed “Malkin” in Cyrillic and Hebrew characters, then “Malchin” in Latin letters from 1947 until the early 1960’s. At that time, he definitively changed his signature to “Malkin.” Toward the end of his life, when he undertook to sign a number of his works a posteriori, he used the signature “Malkin” on some of his paintings dating from 1947-1965.

In addition, David Malkin signed the majority of his drawings and sketches with the initials “D.M.” A number of his manuscripts are also signed “D. Malkin.”


Malkin very rarely dated his works. Most have been identified within a five-to-ten-year window, according to the evolution of his style and his different periods.

Creating is a spiritual practice

Malkin believed that creating art involved an important spiritual commitment. The act of sculpting or painting was a ritual he practiced every day, except for Shabbat. Like his grandfather the scribe, Malkin approached his work with an attitude of total humility and concentration.

Such high expectations of himself and his art never let up, not even when he was vacationing with his family. Malkin would paint for hours at a time, often while standing at his table in his bedroom/studio, listening to music or cultural programs on the radio. He felt a particular affinity for chamber music and Glenn Gould's interpretation of the Bach Goldberg Variations.