Léon Zack was born in Nijni-Novgorod, Russia, in 1892. His first master will be Jakimchenko. Then he worked in Moscow in the workshops of Mashkov and Rerberg, the founder of the “Jack of diamonds” group, in opposition to the reigning academism. Léon Zack will exhibit for the first time in 1907 at the Salon of the Federation of Moscow Painters, while continuing his studies of letters at the university. In 1913, the young student hesitated between painting and poetry.

He fled Russia in 1920 with his wife and their baby Irene. They lived in Constantinople, then in Rome, Florence before settling in Paris where Zack met Picasso and Larionov. Two years later in Berlin, he created the sets and costumes for Boris Romanoff’s Russian ballets and made his first lithographs. He settled permanently in Paris in 1923.

In 1930, Zack joined the neo-humanist group – against the tide of cubism – and took part in numerous exhibitions in Brussels, Amsterdam and Prague. His painting is always figurative, the human representation very important.

Zack takes part in all the major exhibitions : Mai, Indépendants, Réalités Nouvelles, Comparaisons, Art sacré, etc. From 1946, his painting changes and frees itself from figuration. Black lines torture the contours of the faces. Little by little, abstraction becomes obvious. At first with a knife, then with large washes. The knots become omnipresent, repetitive, translating his torments and anxieties. Until 1955, geometrical abstraction dominates, it will be transformed into lyricism, the form becoming more and more refined, spiritual.

Léon Zack understands little by little that the subject itself no longer matters, that only the nuances and forms count. He participates in the origins of informal abstraction and will be one of the precursors and great representatives of the “nuagist” trend. Philosophy becomes more and more important in his life and work.

Duality will be omnipresent in his work. The Jew became a fervent Catholic, the Russian became French…hence his intense creative activity: illustrations, creation of sets and costumes for the theatre, creation of cardboard for tapestry, multiple interventions in the field of sacred art (ways of the Cross, stained-glass windows, altars, etc.), poetic texts which he illustrated himself.

In 1977, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris devoted a major retrospective to him. Léon Zack died in Paris in 1980.