Samuel Bak

Beloosesky Gallery is interested in purchasing original paintings by Samuel Bak. 

Please call (917) 749-4577 or email us at info@beloosesky.com

 

Samuel Bak was born in Vilna, Poland, in 1933. When the Nazis invaded in 1938 Bak and his family were forced into the Vilna Jewish Ghetto. Despite the harsh living conditions Bak’s early drawings were included in an exhibition in 1942 in the ghetto. His family was sent to a Nazi labor camp, however he and his mother were able to avoid this fate by hiding in a convent where they stayed secluded for the remainder of the war. Bak and his mother were the only members of his family to survive WWII.

 

After the war Bak lived in several immigrant camps in Poland and Germany, where he showed great aptitude as a painter. He began his formal training as an artist in 1952, after he and his mother immigrated to Israel. Bak studied at the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts in Jerusalem.

 

Bak continued to expand his artistic endeavors, studying paining at the Beaux-Arts Atelier in Paris, as well as theater design in England and France.

 

Bak is a conceptual artist, blending many different post-modern styles in his work. Throughout Bak’s oeuvre are scenes and allegories to the destruction and suffering that he experienced as a child in Poland. This personal connection to the suffering and destruction of WWII is tantamount to understanding and deciphering his work.

 

 

TIMELINE

 

1933 On August 12th, Samuel Bak is born, in Vilna, to an educated, cultured middle-class family.

 

1941 On June 24th, the Germans occupy Vilna and order the Jews to don the yellow Jewish Badge. Bak, aged 8, is charged with preparing badges for his parents and extended family.

 

On September 6th, the deportation of Jews to the Vilna Ghetto is initiated. Samuel’s father is sent to a labor camp while the child and his mother flee the ghetto to the home of Janina Rushkevich, his grandfather’s sister who had been baptized in her youth. Janina finds shelter for the family in the city’s Benedictine convent, where the nun Marija Mikulska takes the child under her wing and supplies him with paint and paper.

 

When the Germans suspect the convent of collaborating with Soviet forces, they place it under military jurisdiction. The Bak family is forced to flee again, returning to the Vilna Ghetto.

 

1943 In March, the poets Avrom Sutzkever and Szmerke Kaczerginski invite the nine-year-old Bak to participate in an exhibition organized in the ghetto. Sensing that their end is near, the poets decide to deposit the Pinkas, the official record of the Jewish community, into the hands of Bak in the hope that they both survive. Paper is a precious commodity and the white pages of the Pinkas beckon the young artist: he uses them to satisfy his craving to draw. Over the next two years, Samuel fills the page margins and empty pages of the Pinkas.

 

Bak’s father is sent to the forced labor camp HKP 526, named after a unit of the Wehrmacht’s Engineering Corps (Heeres Kraftfahr Park). Samuel and his mother are sent to the camp later, upon the liquidation of the ghetto, on 24 September.

 

1944 On March 27th, a children’s Aktion takes place in the camp in which 250 children are sent to their death. Bak’s mother takes advantage of the confusion in the camp to flee while Samuel hides under a bed in the living quarters of one of the camp buildings. A few days later, his father smuggles him out of the camp in a sack of sawdust. Outside, by a pre-arranged signal, he links up with a woman waving his mother’s scarf. Janina Rushkevitch saved the family again, sending her maid with the mother’s scarf to fetch the child. Samuel and his mother are forced to look for shelter. Again, they make their way to the Benedictine convent, where they find shelter for 11 months, until liberation.

 

On July 2-3, forced laborers rounded up at the city’s camps, among them his father, are shot to death in Ponary, ten days before Vilna’s liberation. 

 

After liberation, Bak takes art lessons with Prof. Serafinovicz. As pre-war Polish citizens, the family has the right to return to Poland and so move to Lodz. Bak begins to study with Prof. Richtarski.

 

1945 After a short time in Berlin, Samuel and his mother arrive at the Landsberg Displaced Persons Camp. They are greeted by survivor Natan Markowsky, who holds a senior position in the camp’s administration, and will later become Samuel’s stepfather. 

 

Bak is sent to Munich to study with Prof. Blocherer. He frequents the city’s museums and becomes familiar with German expressionism.

 

1947 David Ben-Gurion visits Bad Reichenhall, where an exhibition of the art of the child prodigy, Samuel Bak, is organized in his honor. Bak’s art is published in the Hebrew newspaper, Davar HaShavuah, and the Yiddish Forverts in New York.

 

1948 Aged fifteen, Samuel arrives in Israel aboard the “Pan York”, carrying with him many artworks from the Landsberg DP camp.

 

1952 Prior to military service, he studies for one year at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design.

 

1953 – 1956 Military service in the I.D.F.

 

1955 Meets Peter Frye, then one of Israel’s most prominent theater directors, who prompts him to design backdrops and costumes.

 

1956 Moves to Paris and enrolls at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts.

 

1959 Moves to Rome. That summer he has a one-man show at the Robert Schneider Gallery in Rome and exhibits at the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh.

 

1964 Exhibits at the Venice Biennale.

 

1966 – 1974 Returns to Israel.

 

1974 – 1977 Lives and works in New York.

 

1977 – 1980 Lives and works in Israel.

 

1980 – 1984 Lives and works in Paris.

 

1984 – 1993 Lives and works in Lausanne, Switzerland.

 

1993 Settles in Boston, Massachusetts.

 

It is only in 2001 that Bak returns to Vilna for the first time. During the following years he often visits his hometown. 

 

 

MUSEUM EXHIBITIONS

Bezalel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel – 1963
Tel Aviv Museum, Tel Aviv, Israel – 1963
Rose Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA – 1976
Germanisches National Museum, Nuremberg, Germany – 1977
Heidelberg Museum, Heidelberg, Germany – 1977
Haifa University, Haifa, Israel – 1978
Kunstmuseum, Düsseldorf, Germany – 1978
Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn, Germany – 1978
Kunstmuseum, Wiesbaden, Germany – 1979
Stadtgalerie Bamberg, Villa Dessauer, Germany – 1988
Koffler Center for the Arts, Toronto, Canada – 1990
Dürer Museum, Nuremberg, Germany – 1991
Temple Judea Museum, Philadelphia, PA – 1991
Jüdisches Museum, Stadt Frankfurt am Main, Germany – 1993
Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion, New York, NY – 1994
Janice Charach Epstein Museum and Gallery, West Bloomfield, MI – 1994
National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education, Seton Hall College, Greensburg, PA – 1995
Spertus Museum, Chicago, IL – 1995
South African Jewish Museum, Cape Town, South Africa. 2013-1014.
B’Nai B’Rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum, Washington, DC – 1997
Holocaust Museum Houston, Houston, TX – 1997
Panorama Museum, Bad Frankenhausen, Germany – 1998
National Museum of Lithuania, Vilnius, Lithuania – 2001
Snite Museum of Art, Notre Dame University, Notre Dame, IN – 2001
Florida Holocaust Museum, Saint Petersburg, FL – 2001, 2007, 2009
Canton Museum of Art, Canton, OH – 2002
Clark University, Worcester, MA – 2002
Neues Stadtmuseum, Landsberg am Lech, Germany – 2002
University of Scranton, Scranton, PA – 2003
City Hall Gallery, Orlando, FL – 2004
Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX – 2004
Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota, Duluth, MN – 2004
Felix Nussbaum Haus, Osnabrueck, Germany – 2006
University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH – 2006
Yad Vashem Museum, Jerusalem, Israel – 2006
Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL – 2008
Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art, Tulsa, OK – 2008
Keene State College, Cohen Holocaust Center, Keene, NH – 2008
Brown University, John Hay Library, Providence, RI – 2009
Wabash College, Eric Dean Gallery, Crawfordsville, IN – 2009
DePauw University, The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics, Greencastle, IN – 2009
Drew University, Korn Gallery and University Library, Madison, NJ – 2009
Queensborough Community College, Holocaust Resource Center, Bayside, NY – 2009, 2010
Holocaust Memorial Center, Zekelman Family Campus, Farmington Hills, MI – 2010
Holocaust Museum Houston, Houston, TX - 2012