The art of Moise Kisling is striking. Kisling took elements of some of the most prevalent Modern art movements and married them in fascinating ways. Landscapes are similar to Modern art movements such as Fauvism and the Impressionists. Like those movements, Kisling utilized bright, bold colors and captures the essence of the scene, not a simple recreation of real life. This uniqueness also carries into his portraits. The color is clean and the brushstrokes flowing. The eyes are large and almond shaped. The softness of the light and the precision of every detail causes the subject to appear doll-like and surreal.
One of his most interesting portraits is 1916’s Portrait of Jean Cocteau. This work was created when Jean Cocteau and Picasso were visiting Kisling’s studio. During this visit, Kisling and fellow artist Amedeo Modigliani both painted a portrait of Cocteau. Whether there was a wager involved or if they simply wished to compare styles has been lost to history. What we can conclude is that Modigliani’s canvas must have originally belonged to Moise Kisling. Art preservationists have found a self-portrait of Kisling with his wife and their dog underneath the finished painting.
Modigliani’s work is a more straight-on view of Cocteau. The only background is the back of his chair and hints of the wall behind him. Instead, Kisling broadens the view by including details in his studio. Tables, a mug, and other items populate the canvas. There is even a small black dog at Cocteau’s feet. Cocteau is also sitting at an angle instead of forward to face the viewer. All these factors together makes Kisling’s the more “lived in” of the two works.
Moise Kisling brings a new point of view to both landscapes and portraits. By blending aspects of artists like Chagall and movements like cubism, he created a style that was distinctly his own.