as a young man
Tabaud was born in the village of Saujon on the southwest coast
of France in 1914. As a teen, he worked at various jobs, including
cloakroom attendant in a musical hall in Bordeaux. It was there
that his talent for ballet was discovered and he was sent to study
classical dance in Paris. At age 20 he was dancing with the Comédie
Française, then the Marquis de Cuevas' Grand Ballet Company,
and the Ballets Russe, performing in Paris, Berlin, Geneva, Belgium,
Switzerland, Rio de Janeiro, Tangiers, Casablanca, and Argentina.
in Buenos Aires he injured his back and returned to France for treatment.
It was 1939 and the beginning of World War II. He was drafted into
the French army, and with the fall of France taken prisoner by the
occupying German army. To pass the time while in the prisoner-of-war
camp, he began to sketch his fellow prisoners. Drawing had always
been a hobby of his but which he had never seriously considered
as a career. The ballet was his life. But his sketches met with
great success and caught the attention of the prison guards, who
asked to be sketched. Thus began his artist's career.
escaped from prison, and armed with false identity papers, traveled
throughout France, haunting the cafés at night, executing
portraits of German soldiers. By the time the war ended in 1945,
he had done over 5,000. He then went to live in Morocco for eight
years, where he established a school of dance and continued to paint.
came to the United States in 1953 and met with immediate success
in Hollywood. Among his clients were Charles Boyer, Deborah Kerr,
Pier Angeli, Marisa Pavan, and "Zizi" Jeanmarie. He established
his permanent studio in New York in 1957 but kept up an international
schedule as well, traveling to Europe for months at a time. Among
his well-known clients were the Stavros Niarchos family, Baroness
Fiona von Thyssen, Mrs. Mellon-Warner and her children, Mrs. Ted
Kennedy, the Henry Ford family, Mrs. Pierre S. Dupont III, Henry
Miller, John Kenneth Galbraith, and many others. But Jean Tabaud
was best known for his insightful portraits of women of all ages.
He adored the female form and became famous for his graceful nudes.
at 56 (1970)
1974 he retired to his home in the woods outside of Pawling, New
York, but continued
to maintain his studios in Manhattan and France, accepting occasional
commissions there. In the late 1980's he sold these properties and
retired permanently to the peaceful isolation of his Pawling woods,
where he devoted himself to his writings and an occasional portrait
of his neighbors and friends. Weakened by Lyme disease, stricken
with prostrate cancer, loss of hearing and diminishing eyesight,
he took his own life on December 3, 1996. Being without heirs, he
left his considerable fortune to charity. Jean Tabaud was 82 years
old and died, as he said in a note later found among his papers,
more extensive biography is available in the Data
- Artwork Section.