Moissey Kogan (1879-1943) | Biography


Moissey Kogan (1879-1943) was born on 24 (12)¹ May 1879 in Orgeyev, Bessarabia, Russian Empire (now Orhei, Republic of Moldova). He was murdered at Auschwitz death camp in German-occupied Poland, in all probability on 13 February 1943, on his arrival there on convoy 47 from Drancy transit camp, Paris.

Kogan’s oeuvre includes free-standing sculpture in terracotta, plaster, artificial stone and bronze; plaquettes, medallions and reliefs in terracotta, bronze, concrete and plaster; prints in varying media, including etchings, woodcuts and linocuts; a vast number of drawings; embroideries, vases and intaglio-cut gems set in a variety of ways.

The Negativ-Schnitt (intaglio cut) that he developed after learning to cut gems at Idar-Obstein in Germany, which he applied to virtually his entire sculptural output whatever the dimensions, was highly influential on the work of many other artists in France, Germany and the Netherlands.


Moissey Kogan in the late 1920s, photographer unknown

For information on the orthographic transcription of Kogan’s name and the many variants of his first name, see ‘A brief note on orthography’.


In May 1903, Kogan entered the Akademie der bildenden Künste, Munich under Prof. Rühmann to study sculpture. However, he only stayed for one semester, finding it too conservative. He gravitated instead towards the more experimental circle around Obrist and Debschitz, who had founded their Lehr- und Versuchs-Atelier für angewandte und freie Kunst (the reform-oriented Debschitz Schule) in 1902. At the suggestion of the influential art critic, Julius Meier-Graefe, he visited Auguste Rodin in Paris in 1905, who encouraged him to devote his life to sculpture. Back in Munich, he frequented the circle around the theosophist, Karl Wolfskehl, enjoying close friendships with the dancer, Alexander Sacharoff, the architect and designer, Henry van de Velde, and Gertrud Osthaus, wife of Karl Ernst Osthaus, amongst others.

In 1908, Kogan exhibited at the Salon d’Automne, Paris for the first time, and frequently thereafter. He was immediately made a sociétaire, and served regularly on the Salon jury, being appointed vice-president of the sculpture committee from 1925. In Paris, he was based at the artists’ colony of La Ruche at various times (1908 and 1912), enjoying ongoing friendships with many members of the École de Paris and the circle around the Café du Dôme, which he frequented almost as a second home.

In 1909, he joined the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (NKVM), exhibiting at all three of the group’s shows. He was closely associated with Marianne von Werefkin, Alexander Jawlensky, and Wassily Kandinsky.

In early 1910, he was appointed Bildhauer der Stadt Hagen (Hagen City Sculptor) by the museum director and patron, Karl Ernst Osthaus, who provided him with a free studio and arranged a number of sculptural commissions for him. He taught in the sculpture department of Osthaus’s Kunstschule alongside the Dutchmen, JLM Lauweriks (architect and theorist) and Frans Zwollo (goldsmith).

Kogan exhibited at Vladimir Izdebsky’s First and Second International Salons (1909-10 Odessa/Kiev/St Petersburg/Riga and 1910-1911 Odessa).

In late 1911, Kogan moved to Paris, which became his main base for the rest of his life. In 1912, he was appointed to teach modelling at Henry van de Velde’s Kunstgewerbeschule in Weimar. In 1913, he also taught briefly at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Hamburg.

In 1913, at the behest of Karl Ernst and Gertrud Osthaus, he was invited by Walter Gropius to produce a series of over-life-size reliefs for one of the spiral stairwells in the office block of the Gropius-Meyer Model Factory complex for the Werkbund Exhibition, Cologne, 1914.

During the First World War, from 1915 to 1918, Kogan worked briefly in a factory, and then for a printers, in Paris. He and his young family subsequently moved to Switzerland in 1919, where he would be based until 1922. He then returned to Paris. He worked for extended periods in the Netherlands (1924, 1933-1936), Berlin, Switzerland (1930-1932) and London (1937-?). From 25 December 1926 until his death, Kogan retained a studio, and had his main residence, at 14 cité Falguière, Paris.

In Paris and Berlin, he enjoyed close friendships with Marc Chagall, Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Aristide Maillol, Charles Despiau, Karl Hofer, Joseph Hebroni and many others; in the Netherlands, he was close to Otto van Rees, Jan Havermans, Paul Citroën, Frits van Hall, John Rädecker and Hildo Krop.

Kogan also exhibited at the Berlin Secession, the Sonderbund (1910 and 1912), Galerie Alfred Flechtheim (Berlin and Düsseldorf), the Deutscher Künstlerbund, Bernheim Jeune (Lausanne and Paris), the Exposition des arts décoratifs, Paris, 1925, Kunsthandel J. Goudstikker (Amsterdam), Kunstzaal Vecht (Amsterdam), Salon des Tuileries, Paris, Brummer Gallery, New York, Brygos Gallery London, amongst others.

His major patrons included Karl Ernst Osthaus, Max Sauerlandt, Georg Reinhardt and Hendrik Wiegersma.

Kogan had a life-long fascination for dance, non-European (particularly East Asian) art, theosophy and Jewish mysticism, all of which strongly informed his work.

Many of Kogan’s works were confiscated or destroyed during the Entartete Kunst Aktion (Degenerate Art campaign). Work by him was included in the Entartete Kunst exhibition in Berlin and other similar shows. The main museum holdings of his work today include Clemens-Sels Museum Neuss, Wilhelm Lehmbruck Museum Duisburg, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, Staatliches Museum Moritzburg Halle (Germany), Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme Paris (France), Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (the Netherlands) and Israel Museum Jerusalem (Israel).

Kogan married Léonie (Nini) Bickel in 1915. They had two daughters: Leano, born July 1916 and Théano, born April 1920. From 1927, Kogan lived with the Polish pianist, Maryla Emmanuela Friedman.

Moissey Kogan illustrated in H. Fenster, Undsere farpainikte kinstler, Paris, 1951, date of photograph unknown

Kogan was arrested by the Vichy Police on 4 February 1943. He was interned at Drancy transit camp in Paris from 5 until 11 February 1943, when he was transported on convoi 47 to the death camp at Auschwitz in German-occupied Poland.

The documents relating to his murder at Auschwitz were destroyed by order of the camp authorities on their evacuation and liquidation of the camp, along with those relating to countless others. It is, however, very likely that he was taken to the gas chambers on arrival on 13 February 1943 with 801 other people from the same transport.

¹ According to the Julian calendar.