Eugene Zak’s father was originally from Poland and died in 1892. His mother then settled in Warsaw with her only child who was eight years old. The latter studied in the Polish capital and, encouraged by his mother, started to paint. At the age of sixteen, he decided to come to Paris and enrolled in the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where he took J. L. Gérôme’s classes. He then studied under Albert Besnard at the Colarossi Academy. In 1903, he traveled to Italy and worked in Rome and Florence. He later enrolled in the Royal School of Fine Arts in Munich. He did not stay long in Germany and returned to Paris in 1904. There, he participated in the creation of the group Rytm (Rythm), formed by artists of the Polish avant-garde. He exhibited his work for the first time at the Salon d’Automne and was very successful.
In 1913, he married Yadwiga Kohn with whom he later had his son Yannek. In 1914, Eugene Zak traveled to Vence and Nice in the south of France. In 1916, he left for Poland and stayed in Warsaw. In 1921, he traveled to Germany and received an order to decorate the house of the Dutch architect Frans Arnold Breuhaus. In 1922, he returned to Paris. On January 15, 1926, he died suddenly of a heart attack. A retrospective of his work took place at the Salon des Indépendants in 1926. Following Eugene Zak’s death, his wife Mrs. Jadwiga Zak, ran the Zak gallery in rue de l’Abbaye in Paris until the war. Mrs. Zak and her son Jacques were deported and assassinated in Auschwitz. Wladimir Raykis, who had begun as a broker in the gallery in 1926, had become its director and managed it until his death in 1966, which brought about the demise of this prestigious address in the heart of St-Germaindes- Pres, where many talented foreigners and Jewish artists had exhibited their work.
Capitale des arts, le Paris des années 1905-1939 attire les artistes du monde entier. De cette période de foisonnement, un terme est resté, celui d'Ecole de Paris, qui recouvre une grande diversité d'expression artistique. Dans ce brassage dont Montparnasse est le creuset, un groupe se distingue : celui des artistes juifs venus de Russie, de Pologne et d'Europe centrale. Si leurs styles sont variés, un destin commun les rassemble : ils fuient l'antisémitisme de leur pays d'origine. Certains ont connu la célébrité dès les années 1920, tels Soutine, Lipchitz ou Chagall. D'autres n'ont pas eu le temps ou la chance d'y accéder. Près de la moitié a péri dans les camps de concentration nazis.
From 1905 to 1939, Paris attracted artists from all over the globe as the capital of the art world. This period of artistic proliferation became known as the School of Paris, and includes a great diversity of artistic expression. Within the teeming art world centred on Montparnasse, one group set itself apart: Jewish artists from Russia, Poland, and Central Europe. Although their styles were diverse, they shared the common fate of fleeing anti-Semitic persecutions in their home countries. Some became famous in the 1920s, such as Soutine, Lipchitz, and Chagall, while others did not have the time or the luck to gain renown. Nearly half of these artists died in Nazi concentration camps.