Walter Bondy (1880 - 1940)


Rarely did the currents and swells of history determine the career of an artist as significantly as in the case of Bondy. Born in Prague, the well-travelled artist who had settled in Paris and established an artistic community was forced to leave for Berlin at the outbreak of World War I, only to be chased out as anti-Semitism mounted in the 1930s.


After acquiring his classical training in fine arts academies in Berlin and Munich, Bondy moved to Paris in 1903 with his friend Rudolf Levy. Together with Bela Czobel, the three émigrés from Central Europe became the “trio of Munich,” establishing themselves in the Montparnasse area. In the tradition of Café Stephanie in Munich, they set up headquarters at the local coffeehouse Le Dôme and became the pillars of the so-called dômiers, a group of German-speaking and Jewish artists of the area. Later joined by Jules Pascin, Gertrude Stein, Rudolf Grossmann and dealer Wilhem Uhde, “‘The dômiers’ were a group of foreign artists who lived in Paris, met at the café, and loved Paris,” as dealer Flechteim explained. They would talk endlessly, make friends and inspire one another. German artist Ahlers-Hestermann described the atmosphere at Le Dôme:


“We met at the Dôme every night and sometimes during the day, and as everyone had grown tired of talking, poker bridged the aimlessness, kept the mutual hostility down, and allowed us to forget the empty hours in the studio. … In the thick smoke, you could even see Rudolf Levy bluffing in his unchanging bass voice; Bondy, pale and thin’’ (‘’Der Deutsche Künstlerkreis,’’ Kunst und Kunstler 16, 1918, p. 376)


The Bondy painting in the inventory of Gallery 19C, La Pédicure, characterizes Bondy’s experiments during his time in Paris with les dômiers, while being a rare surviving example of his body of work, most of it lost amid the political and military upheaval from the 1910s until his death in 1940.