David Malkin was forty-five when he joined two of his sisters who had moved to Paris in the 1930’s and had managed to survive the war. The remaining members of his family had either immigrated to Israel or were killed during the Holocaust.
In the City of Light, Malkin was one of many foreign Jewish artists who enlivened the cafés of Montparnasse, pursuing the Paris of their dreams. He befriended Mané-Katz, Poliakov, Marian, Giacometti, among others. At the Select, his favorite café in Montparnasse, Malkin reconnected with old friends from Jerusalem, the sculptor Hana Orloff, the painter Reginald Weston, and the singer Braha Zefira.
In 1956, David Malkin won the prize for sculpture at the “Israeli Independence Day” exhibition at the Katz Gallery in Paris. That same year, he participated in the International Exhibition of Contemporary Plastic Arts at the Paris Fine Arts Museum.
The influential art critic Waldemar-George, who held Malkin in high regard, grouped him with other Jewish artists of the School of Paris in a study entitled “The Jewish Artists and the School of Paris,” reprinted in Combat Art (April 6, 1959 -n°57). He described his work as a “veritable revolution in sculpture.”
David Malkin frequently attended the Academy of the Grande Chaumière where he drew in his sketchbooks and prepared drafts for his sculptures. His inspiration came from observing people in the street and in the parks, particularly the checkers players in the Luxemburg Gardens. He also loved sketching the intellectual and artistic celebrities that brightened the cafes of the Latin Quarter.
Malkin was befriended and supported by the acclaimed painter and teacher André Lothe. Lothe welcomed him into his studio, providing him with a space better suited to making sculpture than his cramped accommodations in a Parisian garret. He also allowed Malkin to study painting ex gratia at his Academy in Montparnasse.
In this way, Malkin gradually returned to painting. As a painter, his work developed along the same lines as had his sculpture. He would explore his subjects in a variety of styles, as though he were practicing musical scales, shifting from realism to cubism, from figurative art to abstraction.
For forty years, silhouettes evoking his past, particularly those of the Hasidim, haunted Malkin's work. During the 1960’s and the 1970's, he completed a series of paintings paying homage to the victims of pogroms and of the Holocaust. He also produced densely concentrated compositions, marked by their subtle and refined chromatic nuances, which suggested mysterious and sometimes tragic masks.
Malkin painted on both canvas and paper until the middle of the 1960’s. He then definitively settled on 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. He said jokingly of his own works that he created “ big works in small sizes.”
Malkin very rarely dated his paintings. Most have been identified within a five-to-ten year window, according to the evolution of his style and his different periods.
In the 1980’s, his work became more serene and featured more pastel tones. In 1982, he held a solo exhibition of paintings and sculptures at the Israel Jefroykin Center for Art and Culture and another in 1984 at the Rachi Center in Paris.
In 1987, his meeting with Jean-Pierre Arnoux signaled a fortunate turning point in his career.
The Galerie Arnoux, located in the heart of St. Germain-des-Prés and specializing in art from the 1950’s and 1960’s, started exhibiting Malkin regularly and continues to do so to this day.
In the 1990’s, Malkin visited Corsica and fell under the spell of this beautiful, radiant island. His paintings from this final period are completely abstract and feature an intensely brilliant palette.
David Malkin gradually stopped painting after his wife Ruth died in November 1995. Still, he continued to draw and write constantly in the small sketchbooks that he had always carried with him and filled up for over forty years. He died in Paris in August 2002, a sketchbook at his side where he had continued to draw until the end.