Paris 1934 - Paris 2019


Born Samuel Berger in Paris in 1934 to Polish immigrants, Sam Szafran took the maiden name of his mother when he began to sign his works in the 1960s. Although he was briefly enrolled at the Académie de la Grande-Chaumière in Paris in the mid-1950s, Szafran was largely self-taught as an artist. He exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in 1957 and two years later at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles. While his earliest work was based in abstraction, from around 1960 onwards he began to depict representational subjects, drawn in pastel, charcoal or watercolour. Content with studying a limited range of themes - notably studio interiors, staircases and plant forms - Szafran produced numerous drawings, each characterized by a very skillful handling of the medium and an abiding interest in perspectival effects. From 1965 Szafran’s work was exhibited extensively in France, and also in Switzerland, but only rarely elsewhere. He contributed to the Nouvelle Subjectivité exhibitions curated by Jean Clair in Paris in 1976 and in Brussels in 1979. A retrospective exhibition of drawings, pastels, watercolours and sculptures was held at the Fondation Pierre Gianadda in Martigny, Switzerland, in 1999-2000, and was followed by further retrospectives at the Max Ernst Museum in Brühl in 2010-2011 and the Fondation Gianadda in 2013. Following Szafran’s death in 2019, a large commemorative exhibition at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris in 2022-2023 drew some 330,000 visitors. A permanent gallery devoted to Szafran’s work was established in 2015 at the Fondation Gianadda in Martigny, while other works by the artist are today in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Centre National d’Art Contemporain, the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.