In the footsteps of painters
In the footsteps of painters route aims to teach about a rich and diverse culture of shtetls by presenting the painters that lived there, as well as their body of work.
The route painters presents the changes in art which took place on the break of the 19th and 20th century. For a large group of painters the descent was hardly irrelevant, and throughout their artistically active years they referenced the places and circles in which they grew up. They painted townships, and alleys of Jewish streets, praying Jews and other scenes depicting the life of Jewish population. It was not a dominant theme, however. Painters conducted their own artistic searches, and many of them were influenced by various European styles and movements, especially the École de Paris circles. The majority of this artistic group came from shtetls, and some of them, thanks to their talent, hard work and determination became world-class artists contributing to the artistic environments in Paris, London or New York.
The route in the footsteps of painters goes through 31 towns, where we will get to learn about 37 painters. The towns along the route are places where the painters were born in, or ones which they took as their home in their adult and professional years. Currently they are spread across the borderlands of Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus.
The route goes through: Sejny, Tykocin, Knyszyn, Międzyrzec Podlaski, Radzyń Podlaski, Kosaki, Siematycze, Lublin, Chełm, Kazimierz Dolny, Tyszowce, Hrubieszów, Biłgoraj, Lubaczów, Nowy Sącz, Rava–Ruska, Zhovkva, Bolekhiv, Delatyn, Kosiv, Dubno, Hvizdets, Rohatyn, Buchach, Kremenets, Kovel, Chortkiv, Kamianets-Podilskyi, Kobryn, Drohobych, Navahrudak.
Apart from the famous painters, among the artists presented there are also names unknown and forgotten. The painters we will get to know along the route are: Mojżesz Rynecki, Szaja (Sasza) Blonder, Adolf Abram Milich, Mojżesz (Mosze) Lejbowski, Symche Binem Trachter, Chaim Goldberg, Abraham Weinbaum, Israel Beker, Maurycy Gottlieb, Szymon Mondszajn (Simon Mondzain), Szymon Buchbinder, Regina Mundlak, Israel Szmuel Wodnicki, Pinchas Burstein (Maryan), Dawid Landberg (David Lan-Bar), Samuel Tepler, Samuel Finkelstein, Maurycy Trębacz, Jadwiga Dziędzielewicz, Juliusz Holzmüller, Fryderyk Pautsch, Stanisław Jakubowski, Czesław Mystkowski, Józef Charyton, Stefan Knapp, Jerzy Srzednicki, Zygmunt (Zych) Bujnowski, Stanisław Dębicki, Witold Kajruksztis, Elias Mandel Grossman, Jarosław Pstrak Wasylowicz, Julian Pankiewicz, Josyp Vaśkow, Leopold Lewicki, Volodymyr Lassowsky, Iwan Harasiewicz and Andronyk Lazarczuk.
This route is an alternative way to learn about the culture of Jewish shtetls.
Mojżesz Ryniecki was a Polish painter of Jewish descent. He was born in 1881 in Międzyrzec Podlaski. His father Abraham was a tailor. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. After choosing the field of study he had to overcome the resistance of an orthodox family. After finishing his studies he took up painting about the life of Jewish community. His paintings were to the audiences liking, but didn't bring much income. During the occupation the painter and his family ended up in Warsaw ghetto. Rynecki kept on painting. Only three painting of this period of his life survived the ghetto extermination. In 1943 Mojżesz Rynecki died in the extermination camp in Majdanek.
Szaja (Sasza) Blonder was born in 1909 in Chortkiv. He studied literature in Paris and painting in Kraków. In 1937 he opened his own workshop in Paris and took a pseudonym Andre Blonder. His body of work shifted from Kapist tendencies through abstractionism to a form slightly surrealist. He held avant–garde views on art, which he merged with the Communist ideology. The major theme for his works were mostly: still life, landscapes, and figural compositions. In his artistic work he didn't shy away from Jewish themes.
More information and a rich archive of the painter's work can be found at blonderblondel.free.fr.
The painter Adolf Abram Milich was born in Tyszowice in 1884 in a poor Jewish family. In the 1920s he permanently settled in Paris. He created his own style, based on connections to the Italian classical culture and Mediterranean nature. His paintings are characterised by a classical, established composition, modesty in devices employed, colours were strong and full of light, he dealt almost exclusively with patches. Milich painted landscapes of the Mediterranean shores, Provence, and Palestine.
Mojżesz (Mosze) Lejbowski was born in Navahrudak in 1876. He studied painting in Vilnius and Paris. He was the first president of the Wileńskie Żydowskie Towarzystwo Artystów Plastyków [Vilnius Jewish Association of Painting Artists]. He created in oil and pastel. He was an acknowledged portrait creator. He also painted picturesque vistas of the town, charming alleys, and genre scenes from the lives of the impoverished. He was murdered in Vilnius ghetto.
Symche Binem Trachter was born in 1893 in Lublin. He studied painting in Kraków, Warsaw, Vienna, and Paris. During his stay in Paris Trachter was inspired by impressionism and post-impressionism, especially the works of Cezanne. After his studies he settled in Lublin and opened a workshop in his family house at the Lubartowska street. He painted streets and alleys of the Jewish district, and of the Old Town. He frequently visited and created in Kazimierz Dolny. During the occupation he ended up in Warsaw ghetto. He died in Treblinka.
Chaim Goldberg was born in 1917 in Kazimierz Dolny. He was a painter, sculptor, and an engraver. After leaving abroad in 1955 he became the leading representative of the painters depicting the gone–by world of Jewish shtetls. He painted mostly Kazimierz Dolny. His creations brought him fame, and his works are present in numerous museums across the world, among others in Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art in New York, or in Museum Yad Vashem in Israel.
A rich gallery of his paintings can be seen at chaimgoldberg.com.
Abraham Weinbaum was born in 1890 in Kamianets-Podilskyi. He studied painting in Odessa and Kraków, where he studied under the tutelage of Józef Pankiewicz. At his insistence he left for Paris. In Paris he became acquainted with the works of great painters, he took active part in the artistic life and presented his works. He died in Sobibór.
Israel Beker was born in 1917 in Białystok. His grandparents were from Knyszyn, which was where the painter spent his childhood and teenage years. On some of his paintings he captured the memory of the prewar Knyszyn. Beker survived the war in Soviet Union, but his entire family died in the Holocaust. After the war he left for Germany, then to Israel, where he was an actor and director in The Habima Theatre. He died in Tel Aviv in 2003.
Reproductions of Israel Beker's paintings we can show thanks to the kindness of Mrs. Lucy Lisowska, who has the copyrights for them acquired from the artist's son, Moshe Beker. More paintings can be seen at the Centrum Edukacji Obywatelskiej Polska-Izrael website [Center For Citizenship Education Poland – Israel].
Maurycy Gottlieb was born in 1856 in Drohobych. He learned to paint in Kraków, under tutelage of Jan Matejko. During his studies he created historical paintings, later on he took up the themes connected to Jewish culture and tradition. In the last period of his life, Gottlieb worked mostly on paintings furthering his newfound mission: a Polish–Jewish reunion achieved through paintings. These were works both religious and historical\literary. Gottlied is buried on a Jewish cemetery in Kraków.
Szymon Mondszajn (Simon Mondzain) was born in Chełm in 1888. He studied painting in Warsaw and Kraków, and in 1912 he left for Paris, where he later studied under tutelage of André Derain. He was involved with Ecolé de Paris. In 1925 he left and settled in Algeria, from where he came back to Paris in 1965. Mondszajn painted with influences from impressionism, cubism, and fauvism.
Szymon Buchbinder was born in 1853 in Radzyń Podlaski. He first learned to paint from his brother Józef. Later he left to study in Warsaw, then in Vienna. He also studied in Kraków, under tutelage of Jan Matejko. He settled in Berlin, where he lived until his death in 1908. His works are mostly small paintings – portraits, historical and social scenes. On many of his creations he depicted Jews and their traditions.
Regina Mundlak was born in 1887 in Kosaki on Podlasie, in an impoverished Jewish family. She emigrated with her family to Berlin, and later on to Warsaw. She kept creating without end, using mostly ink and quill. She created portraits of Jewish people typical of Eastern Europe. Before World War I she left for Paris, where her first oil paintings were created. After coming back to Warsaw she started to paint following the realism current, creating figural compositions, genre scenes, and landscapes. She died in Treblinka in 1942.
Israel Szmuel Wodnicki was born 1901. He was an amateur painter, a tailor by profession. He was strongly tied to Kazimierz Dolny. In 1934 he emigrated to Palestine, where he took up construction business. He kept painting (mostly in watercolour) and displaying his works until he died. He died in 1971.
Pinchas Burstein, known under the pseudonym "Maryan" was born in 1927 in Nowy Sącz. He was a painter and illustrator of Jewish descent. During the occupation he was imprisoned in Auschwitz, and survived as the only one of his family. After the war he studied painting in Paris, and then left for New York. He was an expressionist painter, and became famous as the creator of neo–figurative art.
A painter of Jewish descent, David Landberg was born in 1912 in Rava-Ruska. In 1934 he left his home town and settled in Jerusalem. After studying in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv he left for Paris. His paintings are characterised by blurry contours and a rich palette.
Samuel Tepler was born in a traditional Jewish family in 1918 in Hrubieszów. He studied on a university in Vilnius. During the war he was deported to Uzbekistan, from where he went north towards Ural. There he earned a living painting portraits of Joseph Stalin and Communist politicians. After the war he left for Milan and frequently visited Paris. In 1949 he settled in Israel. He actively participated in local growing artistic life. Among others, he was a member of the Israel Painters and Sculptors Association. The main theme of his paintings was still life, created via broad layers of soft colours. He also painted landscapes.
Samuel Finkelstein was born in 1895 in Sandomierz. After finishing his studies, he started to paint and his family convinced him to attend the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków, where he studied under the tutelage of Wojciech Weiss. After his studies he settled in Łódź. He frequently travelled to Kazimierz Dolny, where he painted scenes connected to Jewish life. He was also active in Kraków, where he joined the "Jednoróg" group. He died in Treblinka.
Maurycy Trębacz was born in Warsaw in 1861. His father was a house painter. Thanks to the financial support of other people he received a stipend to afford studying painting in Kraków and Munich. Trębacz was one of the most popular and most prolific Jewish painters of the break of centuries, as well as one of the most distinguished representatives of the artist colony in Kazimierz Dolny. His body of work is very impressive, if patchy. He painted realistic pictures, mostly landscapes and portraits, also with Jewish themes. He died of hunger in Łódź ghetto.
Jadwiga Dzięcielewicz was born in 1900 in Zhovkva. She learned to paint in Lviv and in the Wolna Szkoła Malarstwa i Rysunku [Free School of Painting and Drawing] under the tutelage of professors Zbigniew Pronaszko, Henryk Gottlieb, and Czesław Rzepiński in Kraków. In 1937 she was accepted to the Związek Zawodowy Artystów Plastyków [Association of Artists and Designers] in Lviv. She took part in exhibitions during the interwar period in Lviv and all after–War exhibitions of the Rzeszów artist circles.
Juliusz Holzmüller was born in 1876 in Bolekhiv. He learned to paint in Lviv and Munich. He painted landscapes and town vistas, but passed on to history as a painter of horses. He painted battle scenes with Japanese cavalry, landscapes showing studs, and horses on a natural background.
Fryderyk Pautsch was born in 1877 in Delatyn. He was a Polish painter representative of the folklore–expressionist current in the Young Poland period. He studied under tutelage of Leon Wyczółkowski at Kraków's Academy of Fine Arts. Later on he became a professor there himself, and twice held the position of a rector in the 1930s. Part of his legacy are numerous paintings depicting the life of Hutsuls.
Polish painter and visual artist Stanisław Jakubowski was born in 1885 in Kosiv. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków. He was the author of painting cycles "Pre–Slavic motives in architecture" and "Gods of Slavic People".
Czesław Mystkowski was born in 1898 in Dubno. He studied painting in Warsaw. He left for Paris where he married a Javanese woman, with whom he left for Dutch East Indies. He lived on Java and Bali. In his creations he followed the realism current, and the themes explored were landscapes and Indonesian folklore.
Józef Charyton was born in 1909 in a village called Krupice. During the war he lived in Vysokaye, and his house was right next to the ghetto. From the windows he saw the grand tragedy, daily executions, deaths of people he knew and cared about. The painter decided that if he would manage to survive he should preserve a memory of the truth about holocaust. In 1964 he moved to Siemiatycze. Charyton believed that his Jewish–themed paintings would become historic, that in his works he would depict these years, convey human tragedy, and relay the spirit, atmosphere and multicultural, multireligious and multilingual mood of the eastern towns.
Stefan Knapp was born in 1876 in Biłgoraj. During the war he ended up in Syberia, and then in Great Britain, where he become a pilot for RAF. He studied in London on the Royal Academy of Arts. He used and patented a technique of painting metal with vitreous enamel for the purposes of creating gigantic painting constructions designed for decorating public use buildings. His paintings decorate, among others, the headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, the Heathrow airport in London, and some buildings in New York. The massive paintings of Knapp are also present in Oxford, Paris, Israel, India, Germany, Japan, and other places across the world.
Jerzy Srzednicki is a painter closely connected to Sejny, the prewar population of which was consisting of friendly Lithuanians, Poles, and Jews. The majority of his works are the ones that document the colourful history of the town decades ago. The painter depicted the Jews, fairs, and architecture. During the war he worked as a street artist, creating portraits and working by commission.
Zygmunt (Zych) Bujnowski was born in 1895 in a village called Kutylowo–Porysie. He studied at the The Russian Academy of Arts in Sankt Petersburg. He took part in the Polish–Soviet war. He settled in Tykocin. Bujnowski created landscapes, the region's monuments, vistas of Tykocin and the area. A permanent exhibition of the artist one can see in the Tykocin museum, a division of Muzeum Podlaskie in Białystok. He was buried on a parish cemetery in Tykocin.
Stanisław Dębicki was born in 1866 in Lubaczów. He studied painting in Kraków, Munich, and Paris. In the initial period of his activity he painted the scenes of Hutsuls' life. He was fascinated by the life of small Galicia towns, which became the main theme of his body of work. Dębicki was also a book illustrator. In the National Museum in Kraków there are many of his drawings and watercolours depicting Jews and Jewish houses from, among others, Delatyn and Kołomyja. He also painted scenes depicting Jewish funerals, or the students of cheder.
Witold Kajruksztis was a painter and illustrator of Lithuanian descent He was born in 1890 in Sejny. He studied in Vilnius and Moscow. He was one of the founding members of the avant–garde Blok Kubistów Konstruktywistów i Suprematystów [Group of Cubists, Constructivists and Suprematists called “Blok"]. The initial works of Kajruksztis are considered an avant–garde art. He painted abstract works, as well as photomontages. In the 1930s his creations were influenced by postimpressionism. In later years he inclined more towards realism.
Elias Mandel Grossman was a painter, etcher, and lightographer. He was born in Kobryn and emigrated to the United States with his family in 1911. He settled in Brooklyn, New York. He studied at the Educational Alliance Art School, the Cooper Union and the Art Students' League of New York. Grossman had become widely recognized for his etchings and engravings depicting New York and other American cities. In the 1930s and 1940s he traveled to southern Europe and the Holy Land. The travels resulted in etchings and drawings. His work is held by numerous museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The British Museum and the Tel-Aviv Museum.
Some of Grossman's work can be seen at metmuseum.org.
Jarosław Pstrak Wasylowicz was born in Hvizdets near Kołomyja in 1873. He is considered one of the best Ukrainian painters of the early 20th century. He painted ever since childhood. He travelled with his father between nearby villages and painted pictures of the life of their inhabitants. The representatives of local intelligentsia collected money and sponsored his departure to study in Munich. After his studies he settled in Lviv. He mostly painted genre scenes – of the streets, markets, coffee shops, theatres, and people of Lviv.
Julian Pankiewicz was born in 1863 in a village called Ustya–Zelene near Buchach. He was a painter and illustrator of Ukrainian descent. He attended school in Rohatyn. First lessons he received from his father, who worked as a painter for Orthodox churches. He studied painting in Kraków and Vienna.. In 1887 he came back to Rohatyn. He painted mostly religious pictures. In the late 19th century he settled in Lviv, where he founded the Towarzystwo dla Rozwoju Ruskiej Sztuki [Society for the Progress of Ruthenian Art]. In the 1920s he focused on portraits, including those of people from the villages from around Rohatyn.
Josyp Vaśkow was born in 1895 in Jordanów in the current małopolskie voivodeship. He moved with his family to Lviv, where he learned to paint. He studied journalism in Warsaw. He participated in exhibitions, and his paintings enjoyed a large popularity. For unknown reasons in 1931 he abandoned his family and work, leaving for Delatyn. For the first year he lived in a dugout by a forest, and the local population considered him eccentric. In 1932 he bought a hut and started to paint daily. Since 1945 he worked as a teacher in a Delatyn school. Museum in Delatyn has a large collection of his works, photos, and documents.
Leopold Lewicki was born in 1906 in Burdiakivtsi near Tarnopol. He was a son of a Pole and Ukrainian. With his entire family he moved to Chortkiv. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków. Because of a conflict connected to an exhibition of post–diploma works he was arrested and expelled from the Academy. He continued his studies in Paris. He was a member of the Grupa Krakowska [Kraków Group]. In 1939 he became a head of the town council of Chortkiv. After the war he moved to Lviv. He created paintings of a strong social theme, but also multilayered abstract compositions. In 1970 he was awarded a title of the Merited Artist of Ukraine.
Volodymyr Lassovsky was born in 1907 in Soroka. He was a Ukrainian painter, an art historian, and a critic. He graduated from a gimnazjum in Buchach. He studied painting in Lviv and Paris. During the Nazi occupation he was the head of the Painter's Union in Lviv. Lassovsky painted portraits, landscapes, and still life, drawing inspiration from Cezzane and cubists. Later on he emigrated to Austria, then to France and Argentina. He ended up in the United States. He died in New York.
A book with his biography and numerous reproductions of his works is available in Ukrainian at diasporiana.org.ua
Iwan Harasiewicz was born in Kremenets in 1914. Kremenets was known for it's picturesque landscapes, and many painters visited it. Ever since childhood Harasiewicz exhibited aptitude for drawing. His works drew the attention of a painter Volodymyr Lassovsky, who invited him to participate in a Lviv exhibition. For some time he studied painting in Lviv, but the war made it impossible for him to finish education. After the war he returned to Kremenets. He created drawings and watercolours. His landscapes are sunny and happy.
Andronyk Lazarczuk was born in Volhynia in 1870. He was a Ukrainian artist enamoured with his country and its people. His paintings are mostly landscapes of the area – old houses, field tracks, haystacks. He was an educated artist, having studied painting at the Russian Academy of Arts in Sankt Petersburg. He worked all his life as a painting and drawing teacher in schools in Pochaiv, Kovel, and Kremenets.
Kazimierz Robak, A serce zostawiłem tam..., „Gazeta Antykwaryczna", 2000, 10 (55)
Chaim Goldberg. Powrót do Kazimierza nad Wisłą, pod red. Waldemara Odorowskiego, wyd. Muzeum Nadwiślańskie
Dorota Kudelska, Simon Mondzain - znany i nieznany. Uwagi na marginesie dwóch wystaw, „Teka Lubelska", 2013, 1, s. 98-107
Życie sztetla w sztuce Żydów polskich na świecie w XX w., katalog wystawy, Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Archiwum Emigracji, Muzeum Uniwersyteckie, oprac. Mirosław Supruniuk i in., Toruń 2016