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Celia Rabinovitch

(b Basle, July 20, 1900; d Sugar Loaf, NY, Jan 2, 1962).

American painter, printmaker, sculptor, stage designer and writer of Swiss birth. He studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Geneva (1920) and at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence (1927). From this training he drew upon two dominant influences, combining a predilection for the illusionistic deep space and the clear vibrant colour of the Italian tradition with the fantastic narratives explored by earlier Swiss artists such as Johann Heinrich Füseli, Ferdinand Hodler, Urs Graf and Niklaus Manuel Deutsch.

In 1929 Seligmann moved to Paris, where he remained until 1938 and where he became associated with Surrealists. While in Paris he also became a member of Abstraction–Création and an acquaintance of Le Corbusier as well as Hans Arp, whose example led him to explore deliberately ambiguous biomorphic imagery. Although he did not formally join the Surrealist movement until 1937, he participated in Surrealist exhibitions throughout the 1930s and made use of organic and fantastic forms, often fusing natural with artificial elements. His paintings and etchings of this period, distinguished by their high degree of finish, make striking use of masks and of dancing figures constructed of abstract forms. Their sense of play, secrecy and concealment recalls the animism of the fairy tale and the Gothic tradition of northern Europe. The element of drama, tension and struggle in the dance is particularly apparent in his depiction of multiple figures. He worked in white tempera on a reddish ground, glazing over that layer with transparent colour and black outline. The highlights were added at the end in keeping with a traditional systematic approach to the illusionistic depiction of space....