Schraga Faibich Zarfin (1899-1975), also referred to as “Sam”, was born in Smilovitchi, a village in Belarus. In 1913, at the tender age of 14, Schraga Zarfin enrolled in the Art School of Vilna.
In 1914, Zarfin emigrated to Palestine. He joined the British Army in 1918 and remained in the military until 1920. While still a soldier, he realized his strong passion for art. It was in the army where he decided to make art his life career.
In 1916 he studied in Jerusalem’s “Bezalel” and in 1920, he participated in an exhibition organized by the mayor of Jerusalem. His style at the time could be compared to fauvism. He moved to Paris in 1924, where he continued to grow as an artist. Between 1925 and 1940 he participated regularly in the “Salon des Indépendants” in Paris.
In 1939 Zarfin’s art was recognized by the public and at the end of 1939 he was paid by the Beaux-Arts approximately 2,000 francs for an album of drawings he had completed while he was a soldier.
After the Armistice, Zarfin moved to Lyons, where his family had fled during the war. During the Zarfin family’s absence, their landlord in Paris emptied their apartment, resulting in the loss of a number of Zarfin’s works and papers, and explaining the sparse documentation of his work prior to 1940. It is estimated that some 300 of his creations, including oil and watercolor paintings, drawings, gouaches and red-chalk drawings, were lost during the Occupation. Zarfin continued his work in Lyon without declaring his Jewish identity.
He participated in a number of shows in 1941 and 1942, exhibiting at the Notre-Dame Gallery in Grenoble in Nov. 1941, at the Foyer des Artists in Lyons in March 1942, and at the Folklore Gallery in that same city in July, 1942. Many critics expressed a high regard for Zarfin’s style.
One critic wrote that Zarfin’s paintings treat landscapes, flowers and figures with “a fervent lyricism that seems to lift them out of nature and place them in a dream-like universe that is often bitter and violent, where lines are wild arabesques and colors the product of a subtle alchemy” (Le Temps, July 11, 1942). After the Liberation, Zarfin’s mounted a one-man show in Grenoble .
He moved back to the Paris region at the end of the War in 1945. The following years were particularly difficult, since he had lost all his possessions during the war. Nonetheless, he was now able to paint full-time, thanks to help from his American cousins, as well as from various associations and fellow artists who gave him supplies. With age, Zarfin’s palette underwent a significant change and his colors grew thicker.
During the 1950s and 1960s, more and more collectors were acquiring a considerable number of Zarfin’s works. With numerous articles being written about him and high profile international art collectors purchasing his work, Zarfin was gaining respect and recognition in the art scene. Schraga Faibich Zarfin passed away in 1975. In the years following his death, large exhibits of his works were organized around the world and received favorable press reviews.
We wish to express our gratitude to the family of the artist for helping us write this page and allowing us to use the photographs.