A Great-Granddaughter's Legacy

Indiewire Project of the Week!







An ENORMOUS “thank you,” to so many people who made the Chasing Portraits Project of the Week win on Indiewire possible! You not only voted for my docfilm, but you shared the story, asked friends, family, and co-workers to vote for the project. You voted from New York and Spain, Poland and California, Australia and Singapore, London and Toronto. The network of people who support this project is amazing. Thank you, and stay tuned, for news, travel, and press!

All the very best, Elizabeth


Vote TODAY for Chasing Portraits to win Indiewire’s Project of the Week

On Monday Chasing Portraits was named Indiewire’s Project of the Day. Today is the run off to determine the Project of the Week!


Please vote for Chasing Portraits to help it win! (Yes, this link will take you to the voting page!)chasing-portraits


The weekly prize is a digital distribution consultation with SnagFilms, and the Project of the Month winner (to be decided later) will receive a creative consultation with the Tribeca Film Institute and will become eligible for Project of the Year. And, of course, it’s GREAT publicity for the project.


Chasing Portraits is Indiewire’s Project of the Day!

The Indiewire Project of the Day features films in progress. Today the site is featuring Chasing Portraits as its Project of the Day! On Friday readers vote on the project they liked best. The winning project goes onto another vote at the end of the month! Winner get prizes… the weekly winner gets a digital distribution consultation from SnagFilms (Indiewire’s parent company). And the monthly winner receives a creative consultation from Tribeca Film Institute’s Scripted Programming Department or Documentary Programming Department.

Don’t forget to vote for Chasing Portraits on Friday!

You can see the project featured here:
screen shot indiewire


History’s Footprints

E speakingAt the end of my Chasing Portraits talk I have a slide that says, “My Goal: To share my great-grandfather’s artwork with others.” And then just below that it says, “Things you can do to help.” Author Eileen Grafton, has taken my call for help to heart in a blog post she wrote after attending my most recent talk at the Sausalito Woman’s Club.” I’m excerpting the first two paragraphs of her blog post titled, “History’s Footprints,” here and then providing a link over to her blog for the rest.

History’s Footprints

“History always leaves a legacy behind for those who are willing to look for it.

Elizabeth Rynecki is one such seeker. Recently I attended a talk Elizabeth gave about her “Chasing Portraits” film project, held in a beautiful women’s clubhouse nestled in the Sausalito hills overlooking San Francisco Bay. Elizabeth is the great-granddaughter of Moshe Rynecki, a prolific Warsaw-based artist who documented the Polish Jewish community in the interwar years (1918-39) in over 800 paintings and sculptures. Sadly, most of his body of work was lost in the Holocaust. Or so people thought.” [Read the rest on Eileen’s blog]

How do I know Eileen? She first reached out to me on Twitter because of her interest in history, family legacies, the Second World War, and my recent trip to Poland. Eileen’s passions are history and story. She writes historical fiction and is at work on two books with historical ties to the Middle East. On her “about me,” blog page she writes, “One is an archaeological suspense linking 1st century Israel to modern-day America. The second is a Holocaust Survivor love story I’m writing with co-author Susy Flory. My blog entries deal with my love of history, writing, and sometimes a bit of whimsey.”

Thank you, Eileen, and all who help me to share my great-grandfather’s art and the Chasing Portraits story!

Cafe Scene – 1993 Auction Catalog Find

cafe sceneMy favorite sorts of emails? The ones with the lovely and unexpected gift of the find of a Rynecki painting I’ve never seen. Yesterday I got an email from my Polish provenance research friend, Yagna Yass Alston, with a photo from a 1993 Sotheby’s Tel Aviv auction catalog. The photo shows a painting, a Cafe Scene. This photo is not great, and I’ve now ordered a copy of the catalog (it’s amazing what you can find online!) so I should have a better image in a few days. The page from the auction catalog shows the painting and provides a brief biography. But the incredibly fascinating bit (yes, above and beyond seeing a new image!)? It says…”after the German retreat, 150 works by Rynecki were discovered in the basement of a Warsaw apartment block, including the present work.” This is NOT a piece put up for auction from my family. So does this mean that whoever sold this piece has 149 others?! If so, who is this person? Where do they live? How do I find out more about what else they’ve got? And who owns this piece today? And do THEY have any others? So many questions. Like I always say, it’s why the documentary film is titled, Chasing Portraits

[note: post updated 20 January 2015 with higher quality images from the auction catalog.]



catalog cover
















Chasing Portraits is the Cover Story for J (the Jewish news weekly of Northern California)

What a great way to end 2014 and ring in 2015! Chasing Portraits is the cover story for J, the Jewish news weekly of Northern California. Here’s hoping for another stellar year for the project!

A lost world, on canvas: Oakland woman reclaims her great-grandfather’s legacy


By the Rivers of Babylon We Sat and Wept

npi1938nr32I really, really, wish I could explain what it’s like to get an email that says, “I’m sending you images and links….have you seen these images?” There’s palpable excitement in the moment before I get to actually see the image – my heart beats faster, my hand moves towards the cursor to click on the link or download the image… Will it be something I’ve seen before? Will it actually BE a Moshe Rynecki painting? Will I recognize the style? Will I know the subject? And then I open the file and it is, in fact, an image I have NOT ever seen before, and yet there is the immediate recognition of the style – the look and feel of my great-grandfather’s approach to painting and composition. There’s an incredible euphoric feeling of the discovery of a piece I had not previously known was out there and the instinct to immediately share it. First I send it off to my father (Moshe’s grandson), then I tell my husband and sons about it, and I have several friends who I share it with in an email, and then I upload it to my website, and then I post it here. Sometimes I struggle to do all those things all at once. A discovery must always be shared with others! It’s what the Chasing Portraits story is all about. I have a line in a grant proposal I recently wrote which says, “This is a story of frustration, hope, and fear, and not one that is easily revealed. But the chase is neither hopeless nor quixotic: I have found dozens of lost works, and have evidence that at least dozens remain to be found.” Today is one of those days where I am ecstatic that I continue to search because today proves that if I keep looking, keep asking for help, keep making my cause known, I *will* find more paintings, I will learn more about my great-grandfather’s oeuvre of work, and I will better understand his art legacy. Thank you for being here so that I may share it with you. The piece here today is the one that is new to me this morning. It is titled, “By the Rivers of Babylon we sat and wept.” It was printed in 1938 in Nasz Przeglad Ilustrowany, no 32, page 2.[Read more…]

Young Jewish Artists Abroad…The translation of an interwar years newspaper article

Those of you who have followed the Chasing Portraits story for over a year will be familiar with the story of the Otto Schneid archive collection at the University of Toronto’s Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. One of the items in the archive was an article in a German language newspaper that appeared to be almost exclusively about my great-grandfather. The article, printed with the Fraktur font (an almost impossible font to read!), has now been translated into English thanks to the generosity of a follower of the project! There is no header from the newspaper, so it is unclear which newspaper published the piece, or the date of publication.[Read more…]

A Really Big Thank You to So Very Many!

It takes a great deal of planning, behind-the-scenes work, and assistance of many to bring together all the details of a documentary film project. More people than I could possibly thank in this post were involved in helping me with my trip to Poland. So I want to start by thanking my donors, family (who held down the fort while I was away), friends (who read my blogs, Facebook posts, and Tweets daily, and wrote emails to check in on me), and everyone else (my apologies to anyone I’ve accidentally left out but whose support I greatly appreciate!) who made this trip possible.  In this blog post, I want to specifically highlight a few special individuals who helped make the trip a success.[Read more…]

Last Day in Warsaw

The Chasing Portraits documentary film team of Sławomir Grünberg, Cathy Greenblatt, and I, left Krakow Monday afternoon by train for Warsaw. A three hour ride, we did a little bit of everything including filming the views out the window (it was foggy!), working on blog posts, calling family, and resting up for the last big day of filming. We arrived back in Warsaw in the early evening and grabbed a taxi for Polin: The Museum of the History of the Polish Jews. We needed to pick up our press passes (mine said “Documentary Filmmaker” – !) for Wednesday’s grand opening events.[Read more…]