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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » September 29, 2014
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Testament to Terror
September 29, 2014   
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Jewish art that survived one of the most terrifying periods of the 20th century will be on show in a new exhibition that opens Oct. 30 at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.

The exhibition is entitled Extant: Paintings, Drawings and Sculptures from the Collections of the Jewish Historical Institute, and is made up of items collected across Poland after 1944 that survived World War II.

The Jewish Historical Institute has brought together work by the most important Polish Jewish artists. Many of the items are all that is left of the artists and the only proof these people ever existed. Featuring work by almost 50 artists, the exhibition aims to provide an insight into the vibrant life of the Jewish community in Warsaw and other cities in prewar Poland. Visitors to the exhibition will also see works of art created in Jewish ghettoes during the war.

Divided into two sections, the exhibition will mark the opening of the main exhibition at the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Items on show in the first section were produced during the German occupation of Poland, especially in ghettoes. A lot of the pieces have close ties to Warsaw and ŁódĽ and most come from the Ringelblum Archive, which was the underground archive of the Warsaw Ghetto. The items include children’s portraits by Gela Seksztajn, drawings with handwritten notes by Rosenfeld (the artist’s first name is unknown), and drawings by Witold Lewinson, Roman Kramsztyk and Henryk Beck. A lot of the pictures convey the sense of terror and inhumane conditions Jews had to endure.

Items from the art collection of the Jewish Historical Institute will account for most of the other exhibition section. The featured artists explored the major events of their time as well as depicting daily routines. Making a masterful use of color, space, rhythm and form, many were also inspired by childhood. In addition to still life and portrait pieces, there will be many works on show depicting rural and urban scenes. The pieces reveal superb technique that the painters and other artists learned in art schools and fine arts academies across Europe. From realism to postimpressionism and from expressionism to surrealism, the exhibition will span a wide variety of styles and genres.

Both parts of the exhibition are a tribute to artists who were starved to death and murdered in German death camps in Treblinka, Auschwitz and Bełżec, and tormented in the ghettoes of Warsaw, Lviv, Cracow, Białystok and ŁódĽ.

Until March 31, 2015; Jewish Historical Institute; 3/5 Tłomackie St., Warsaw
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