Jacques Yankel, pseudonym of Jakob Kikoïne, was born on April 14, 1920 in Paris and died on April 2, 2020 in Aubenas (Ardèche), at almost 100 years old.

He is a French painter, sculptor and lithographer from the second School of Paris.

He is the son of the painter Michel Kikoïne (1892-1968).




Église romane Sainte Marie-Madeleine de Balazuc, vitraux.

Fondation Jeanne-Matossian, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Chartres.

École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts, Paris, Sans titre, technique mixte collage, encre de Chine et gouache, 1996.

Musée d’art moderne de la ville de ParisPigalle la nuit, aquarelle ; Saint-Germain-des-Prés, lithographie ; Port, lithographie.

Musée Sainte-CroixPoitiers.

Musée des Augustins de Toulouse.


Musée Helena Rubinstein, Tel Aviv.


Musée de l’Athénée, Genève.



“Yankel’s life and work, on analyzing his journey, come together. It is not appropriate to methodically retrace his course, since he did it better than anyone with humor and conciseness, but to skim over a few periods, to refine the synthesis.

Born in Paris into a family of emigrants without resources, he lived his childhood and adolescence in La Ruche, with a father, Kikoïne, himself a painter, now widely recognized.

Very quickly he began to paint and then sporadically attended the School of Fine Arts and worked at the Draeger printing house.

After the war and obtaining a doctoral thesis in geology, the Ministry of the Colonies sent him on a mission to Mali, former French Sudan (in Gao, he befriended Jean-Paul Sartre), in order to dig wells for the Tuareg.

In 1952, back in Paris, having abandoned public service, he devoted himself completely to painting and gradually began to exhibit in Paris and abroad, while continuing to sacrifice to his passion for travel. From now on, his work having gradually reached maturity, he never stops tracking down the images and emotions that cross his life.

In all circumstances, in the street, in Japan, in the United States, in Africa or in Tahiti, he observes the spectacle of the world with his greedy eye, eternally curious, continually amazed by the most humble objects, the most unusual landscapes. .

Enemy of hypocrisy, friend of his friends, faithful to himself and to his commitments, epicurean, lover of beauty in every sense of the term, he is tolerant, but sets limits. Talkative, warm, attentive to the most anonymous interlocutor, free thinker, sometimes earthy, solitary cultivating good company, he appreciates simple pleasures.

A man of culture, a clairvoyant pedagogue – his students at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts have not forgotten him – he happens to be rebellious, to feign innocence, and to handle derision with benevolent cynicism.

An unrepentant collector of naïve works, an appellation which he refutes, of masks and African objects, of discarded utensils, of contemporary artists, he is this beloved and esteemed man, modest and extroverted, on whom age has no grip, which gives each encounter its inalienable value.

At the crossroads of several cultures, the result of a rich and tumultuous life experience, his artistic itinerary reverberates an astonishing freshness of expression enhanced by baroque accents, which give his syntax sometimes a slightly dramatic drift, sometimes a nostalgic imprint, but always a nostalgic joy to paint, but always an invigorating joy to paint. Yankel has chosen to define the envelope of things and to probe their interiority, because he wishes to express himself with maximum freedom, trusting little to labels and undue braiding.

In the 1970s, two years after the death of his father, he relied on literature with the aim of transposing and parodying it by adopting the Torah and The Jewish Bride as his aims. He also paints pebbles incorporated into cement slabs and carries out projects intended for architecture. The colors are fiery, the shapes ribbed, the cadences cheerful, as is not lacking in the inventory the syncopated multiplication of sketches on the same canvas, nor the adjacent reliefs.

From 1975 to 1980, he refined the curve of his graphic design, playing efficiently with non-colors while his painting did not neglect still life or interiors with strong consonances and regulatory divisions.

The 80s saw the strengthening, in his Ardèche studio, of his taste for assembling heterogeneous, common or explosive objects, on canvas or on paper, which maintained a unitary discourse centered on the capacity for transformation of ordinary things. With the same verve, between 1985 and 1990, he insisted on the potentialities of the line and their close complicity with the incised masses of color of linear characters.

The universe, its contradictions and its metaphors permanently attract the inquisitive eye of Yankel, who, during the 1990s, tirelessly experimented with the operating field offered to his senses and his understanding, in order to mold them into his obsessive relationship to reality. He paints quickly, preferably in oil, as he confesses, if he were to die the next day.

“We live, he adds, and we paint without knowing”, but we could comment, to know, because being is always “on the way to itself”.

On a contiguous slope, how not to stop briefly on the production that Yankel has been digging and fleshing out for a long time: his reliquaries, his assemblies or his ex-votos. He frees his imagination there, by poetically choosing objects taken from artisanal, industrial or urban folklore, which he flushes out in public dumps, attics or flea markets. Disused objects, whose turnings and patinas he likes, which he arranges, embeds, shifts, dislocates, and finally welds on wooden or metal supports, from time to time meshed or painted, quadrangular or semi -circulars. We have here a living material, kitsch in its symbolism and its thoughtful arrangements, which seem to function as an enterprise for the preservation of popular culture. Everything lies in the way of cutting and pairing these objects, of separating them and ordering them, by exploiting their differences, beyond a decorative will and any anecdotal trend. Diverted and rehabilitated objects that take on the appearance of dream machines.

At the end of this intimate and fraternal chronicle, which forms an inseparable whole, each period fertilizing the other, the face of an unsubdued and inventive artist is revealed, by turns romantic and builder, a little sorcerer and deliberately rational, whose assumed paradoxes refer to his existential claim: to embody the living.”        

                                                                                                                                           Gerard XURIGUERA, 1984

                                                                                                                                           Yankel, Editions de l’amateur


Whereas, five years after his sister Claire, he was born at the Boucicaut hospital in Paris from the marriage of Michel Kikoïne and Rosa Bunimovitz – not accepting this birth well, Kikoïne had, in the company of Chaïm Soutine, fled to Cagnes-sur-Mer shortly before giving birth, an abandonment for a period of one year that Rosa would not forgive him despite the highly developed paternal sense that would follow2 -, Jacques Yankel spent a precarious young childhood in the artists’ housing estate of La Ruche, at 2, passage from Danzig to the 15th arrondissement, which remained the place of residence of the Kikoïne family from 1912 to 1926. He grew up there surrounded by his family and works of art until he entered kindergarten.

In 1926, Michel Kikoïne acquired a house in Annay-sur-Serein (through which Yankel remained linked to the department of Yonne), then in 1927 the family left La Ruche to settle in Montrouge (rue de Gentilly) – “my bad company in the rue de Gentilly could have made me a real villain” Yankel will recall – before returning – “poverty caused our departure from the beautiful studio in the rue de Gentilly” he will still remember2 – in the Montparnasse district (7, rue Brézin) in 1933.

His schooling is deplorable and he will be refused at the School of Applied Arts and the Beaux-Arts in Paris. During the Second World War, he held temporary jobs in the printing and engraving workshop. In 1941, he moved to Toulouse, in the free zone, and became an assistant geologist. He married Raymonde Jouve the same year, Michel and Rosa Kikoïne crossing clandestinely and separately the line of demarcation in order to be present. He continued his studies and brilliantly defended a diploma of higher studies in geology at the Faculty of Sciences of Toulouse. In 1946, his daughter Dinah Kikoïne was born. He occasionally participates as an amateur painter in the Chariot group with the artists Jean Hugon, Michel Goedgebuer, Bernard Pagès, Christian Schmidt, André-François Vernette and Jean Teulières.

In 1949, he was hired by the Ministry of the Colonies for the geological map of Gao-Timbuktu-Tabankort in French West Africa. From this episode, he will keep a certain taste for African art of which he will become a collector. The following year, he unexpectedly met Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre in Gao. The latter encouraged him to turn to painting.

In 1952, he returned to live in Paris, relocating to La Ruche, and made his debut as a painter at the Lara Vinci gallery, rue de Seine. In 1954, in parallel with his thesis defense in geology at the Sorbonne, he exhibited his works in Paris and Mulhouse. In 1955, he had his first successes as an artist. He won the Neumann Prize, which he shared with Reginald Pollack, the 1st prize from the Society of Art Lovers, as well as the Fénéon Prize, resituating himself thus: “in Paris, the era was one of misery and I am a miserabilist like my friends at the time, Orlando Pelayo, Jean Jansem, François Heaulmé… The new school of La Ruche is made up of Paul Rebeyrolle, Simone Dat, Michel Thompson, Michel de Gallard, who practice an expressionist realism influenced by Constant Permeke, Bernard Lorjou and Francis Gruber, and basically quite similar to our work at the time”.

From 1957 (the year he associates with his first exhibition at the Romanet gallery and the influence of Nicolas de Staël on his work) until 1959, he continued to exhibit and traveled to the Maghreb, the Balearic Islands, Geneva and in Israel. In 1960, he married Jacqueline Daneyrole in Labeaume where he took up residence. From 1961 to 1965, he exhibited in Paris, Israel and Amsterdam. In 1966, her mother Rose Kikoïne died. In 1967, he rushed to Israel for the Six Day War. He disembarks the sixth. He voluntarily commits to Kibbutz Zikhron Yaakov and Maayan Zvi and works there for three months.

His father Michel Kikoïne died in 1968, the year he was hired as a plastic art teacher by students at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris to succeed Raymond Legueult, who had resigned. Installed at 3, rue de la Cité-Universitaire, it will continue until 1985 this teaching which is historically associated with the emergence of the Vohou-vohou movement, started by a wave of students from the Ecole des Beaux- Arts d’Abidjan came to continue their studies in his studio, to be from November 1985 to January 1986 the curator of the exhibition African Arts – Sculptures of yesterday, paintings of today organized on the initiative of the A.D.E.I.A.O. at the Museum of African and Oceanian Arts in Paris.

At the same time, he continued to exhibit during the 1970s. In 1978, he participated in the production of the sets for Shakespeare’s play Othello staged by Georges Wilson. He begins to work with the Yoshii gallery in Tokyo and Paris.

In 1987, he married Lidia Syroka and exhibited in Antwerp. That year, he made the first donation of his naive art collection to the Museum of Naive and Popular Arts in Noyers-sur-Serein. The second donation will take place in 2018.

In 2019, Jean-François Lacour, publisher of Jacques Yankel, testified: “He will be a hundred years old in April 2020, and what is surprising is his youth: he paints, he draws and talks about art like a child “.