Simon Segal was born into a well-off middle-class family in Bialystok. He started an engineering carreer in Russia before taking an interest in art. In 1918, he gave up his engineering studies and left Russia for Berlin, where he stayed until 1924. In Berlin, he spent time with writers and artists gathered around the poets Mayakovsky and Essenine and the avantgarde journal Spolokhi. In 1925, Segal settled in Paris and worked on everything but painting. He earned his living by working several small jobs: librarian, worker for Citroën, and designer for Paul Poiret, who asked him to produce a series of dolls.
In 1926, he stayed in Toulon and rediscovered the pleasure provided by painting. He met Bruno Bassano, a socialist activist exiled by Mussolini who founded the artists’ colony Trident. Bassano became Segal’s loyal supporter and patron. Back in Paris in 1933, Segal spent time on the terraces of the cafés Le Dôme, La Rotonde and La Coupole. In 1935, he exhibited thirty gouaches at the Billet-Worms gallery. On the day the paintings were hung in the gallery, the whole set of works was bought by the American collector Frank Altschul.
When World War II broke out, he volunteered to join the army. As the army turned him down, he left for Aubusson in the Zone Libre (free zone), where he got married and met Jean Lurçat. Shortly afterwards, he took refuge in a farm and obtained forged documents. Following the war, he settled in Jobourg on the Cherbourg peninsula. From 1946 to 1953, he lived happily, while working continuously and became friends with the patron Henri Bernardi. At that time, he made cartoons for eighteen tapestries made at Aubusson and the Gobelins. In 1953, he returned to Paris and had numerous solo exhibitions. He illustrated the Bible for the publisher Labergerie in 1956. In 1958, he created a series of mosaics produced by the Brazilian artist Antonio Carelli. From the 1960s, he settled in a small studio in Montmartre. In 1968, he completed the illustration of The Apocalypse, which was published by the bookstore Kieffer in Paris. He died in the night of August 2, 1969. His friend Dr Osenat had him buried in the cemetery in Arcachon.
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.