Moshe Rynecki was born in 1881 in a small town East of Warsaw near the town of Siedlce. His father, Abraham, was a tailor who specialized in making uniforms. Little is known about his mother, Zipora. Life was hard for the Ryneckis who were Orthodox Jews [note: It previously had been stated that they were Hasidic. We believe the statement that they were Orthodox to be more accurate and so have revised this piece of information.] While Abraham was a talented and successful tailor, he and his wife had married quite young (he was fourteen and she was twelve) and suffered the loss of thirteen children to various illnesses. Only five children survived: Itzchak, Jakov, Moshe, Chaya, and Jospah.
Rynecki began drawing at an early age. According to family lore, he used to use chalk, or sometimes paint when he had some, to draw figures on the floor and walls of his home. According to a memoir written by his son, George, “Not once was he actually beaten for breaking the commandment, ‘Thou shalt not create images’.” Moshe once explained his drive to paint to his son. He told him, “God gave me talent and I truly don’t believe in breaking that natural trend. I simply have to do it. If He wouldn’t want me to paint, I wouldn’t have that tremendous urge and desire to immortalize on paper or canvas what I see. I simply am a writer of sorts—instead of words, I leave my messages in pictures. I don’t feel to trespass the Bible’s saying about images.”
Although Rynecki probably would have preferred to go straight to an art school, he first had to complete his Jewish education at a yeshiva. He did this, and then went on to a Russian middle school, which was a prerequisite to acceptance at the Warsaw Academy of Art. His dates of attendance at the Warsaw Academy of Art art unknown.
At age 17, Moshe met Paula Mittelsbach, the daughter of a Warsaw family of some means. They married, and while Moshe continued his studies at the Warsaw Academy, Paula was left to oversee the household and to run a small store (that store was located on Krucza Street). The store, which sold writing materials, books, and paintings supplies for artists, provided the family with an income. At about the same time the store opened, Paula gave birth to a daughter. About a year and a half later she gave birth to a son, George.
After completing his formal education, Rynecki went on to paint that which he knew best—the community in which he lived. In paintings such as The Chess Players and Woman Embroidering he captured people doing everyday activities, and in paintings such as Simhat Torah, Synagogue Interior, and In the Study, his works capture places, events, and issues central to the Jewish community. While some of his works were shown in local galleries and were met with good reviews, his son George claims, “he was not successful in selling any of his works.”
Early in the Second World War Rynecki was forced into the Warsaw Ghetto. Although he had little access to art materials in the Ghetto, he did continue to paint. Only three paintings from this period of his life are known to have survived the Holocaust: In the Shelter, Forced Labor, and Refugees.
In early 1943 Moshe was deported to Majdanek. He died there, in the concentration camp.