Saturday, April 19, 2014

Remembering What You Must Not Forget

The Old Country

A Wedding Scene: Life went on, as depicted in this couple getting married under the chupah, 
or marriage canopy.
Credit Issachar Ber Ryback; 1917
Source: General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

An article in Public Domain Review looks at the painter, Issachar Ber Ryback, whose art depicts shetl life in the Ukraine following the First World War, where pogroms and revolution were normal part of daily living, well, actually it was more like despair, destruction and death. These are not happy paintings, but what else can you expect when these were not happy, hopeful times.

The article says:
A selection from a set of 30 lithographs by the Russian artist Issachar Ber Ryback, dating mostly from 1917 and published in a book by the Berlin-based “Farlag Shveln”. The images depict scenes of Ryback’s home village in Ukraine before it was destroyed in the pogroms following World War I, a fate which seems ominously echoed in the torturous angles and distortions of form in which he represents the daily activities of village life. After graduating from art school in Kiev in 1916, Ryback played a key role in the Yiddish avant-garde of the Soviet Union following the Russian Revolution. After his father was murdered by Petliura’s soldiers in 1921, he fled to Germany, settling in Berlin where he became a member of the Novembergruppe and was involved in a number of important exhibitions. After a return trip to Russia, working on a set design for a Yiddish theatre and undertaking a prolonged journey through the Jewish “kolkhozes” of Ukraine and Crimea, he moved to Paris in 1926. Here he lived at the heart of the city’s vibrant artistic life – including solo exhibitions at the Galerie aux Quatre Chemins (1928) and Galerie L’Art Contemporain (1929) – until his death in 1935.
It is true that most of the figures look grotesque and unreal, which is the general impression of of life then, where it seemed that daily living was not ordered, but disordered, or out of order—a general sentiment felt to various degrees across Europe after the First World War. The people waited for some order to be restored, somehow, by someone, and while waiting with some kind of hopeful expectation, they somehow continued with their activities, such as marriage, religious ritual and commercial transactions. Somehow, and for some very personal reasons, these paintings resonate today.

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To view more of Issachar Ber Ryback's paintings, go to [PubDomRev]

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