The painter-engraver Paul Jeffay (ne Saul Yaffie) was born in Glasgow, Scotland on 29 April 1898 to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents fleeing pogroms, who had been among the first generation of 20th century Jews to settle in the Gorbals, which became the heart of the Glasgow Jewish community. He studied at The Glasgow School of Art between 1912 and 1919 (one of only three other Jewish students at that time), winning numerous prizes. His tutors included the Estonian-born sculptor Benno Schotz, who recalled that upon the outbreak of the First World War, Yaffie won a poster competition for display in Glasgow tramcars depicting a woman and child fleeing from a fire. Jeffay’s studies were interrupted by his voluntary war service (1916-17), and after briefly being stationed in the same Jewish battalion as sculptor Jacob Epstein, he served in the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.
Following the Armistice, Saul returned briefly to Glasgow, before moving to Paris and settling in Montmartre around 1919. He participated in various ‘Salon des Independants’ exhibitions in the 1920s and 1930s, adopting the pseudonym ‘Paul Jeffay’, and also working under the names Paul Lebeau, and Solomon/Saül Yaffie/Yafie. In 1930, he founded his own studio in ‘Fontenay-aux-Roses’, where he remained (with the exception of the Second World War years) until his death in 1957. Between 1933 and 1939, Jeffay made three prolonged visits to Poland, studying and sketching the Jewish community in the Warsaw Ghetto; the resulting album, ‘Visages du Ghetto’, comprises a series of fourteen etchings. Jeffay’s studio was looted by the German Army during the Second World War and only a small portion of his work has survived.
Paul Jeffay died in Paris, France in 1957. A set of the engravings from the 'Visages du Ghetto' series was shown, along with the original drawings at an exhibition organised by Ben Uri at at the Western Marble Arch Synagogue in 1994, entitled 'Visages du Ghetto: Paintings, Drawings and Etchings of Pre-War Jewish Europe by Paul Jeffay (1898-1957)' and a set of prints was afterwards gifted to the Ben Uri Collection by the artist's grandson.