Hope to see you at a Chasing Portraits book event this fall! Don’t see a venue near you? Stay tuned for the addition of more events! Event Details
The first book review of Chasing Portraits is a starred review from Kirkus!
A page-turning personal history of Rynecki’s search for her great-grandfather’s legacy.
Moshe Rynecki (1881-1943) was a Polish artist whose work “detailed the everyday lives of Polish Jews in the 1920s and 1930s.” His singular oeuvre shows the culture and quotidian activities of his people, and his very identity was intimately tied to his Jewish heritage, even to the point of following them into the Warsaw ghetto. He was an ethnographically inspired painter and thought abstract styles would detract from the world he was portraying. He and his wife, Perla, operated an art supply store—or she did while he painted. By the time of the Nazi invasion in 1939, he had 800 works that needed to be protected. With his son George’s help, he took paintings out of frames, rolled them up, and put them into piles. Moshe also made a list of which pieces went into each pile, but, unfortunately, the list was lost. The works were entrusted to friends to be retrieved after the war. When the Nazis moved the Jews into the ghetto, George refused to take his family, hiding their Jewishness with new identities. Because Moshe would not deny his heritage, he and Perla entered the ghetto. In 1942, George got his mother out, but his father felt that he had to go “where brothers and sisters go. And if it’s death, so be it.” The last they heard was that he was on his way to a death camp. After the war, Perla found a bundle of more than 100 paintings and gave them to her son, who moved to the U.S with his wife. That much of the story is fascinating, but it’s only the beginning, as the author discovers her grandfather’s memoir and begins her search for his paintings.
A wonderful story beautifully told. Rynecki’s yearslong search, successes, frustrations, and failures are a study in perseverance.
Pre-Order Chasing Portraits and get a signed bookplate and bookmark!
Here’s the scoop: If you pre-order the print edition of Chasing Portraits and email a copy of your receipt to ChasingPortraits@gmail.com, I will send you a signed bookplate (it has an adhesive backing) and a cool bookmark!
Why pre-order? Frankly, because it helps me. Pre-ordered books count towards first week sales numbers which gives the book the best chance of hitting best seller lists. Plus, strong pre-order numbers can inspire my publisher to print more books, which focuses both the publisher and booksellers on the book’s prospects and raises awareness for the documentary. So, if you can pre-order, I’d really appreciate it!
The fine print: Forward an email receipt or a photo of a paper receipt for the print edition only to ChasingPortraits@gmail.com by August 15, 2016. Be sure to include your mailing address.
Last week I was in New York to pitch the Chasing Portraits book at the Jewish Book Council’s “Meet the Author,” event. The pitch is a 3 day event attended by over 200 authors! I heard fellow authors speak on everything from politics and legal issues to cookbooks, humor, and the Holocaust. This is a very happy me after the 2 minute pitch!
Chasing Portraits is now available for pre-order from your favorite bookseller! It will be in bookstores September 6th.
Read more about the event on JBC’s website.
[thanks to Dina Gold, author of Stolen Legacy, for the photo!]
“Chasing Portraits is a miraculous story of heartbreaking loss and spine-tingling discovery. In her search for her great-grandfather’s paintings, Elizabeth Rynecki becomes a genealogist, an art historian, a detective, a crusader for justice, and a time traveler, peering through windows and into paintings to unearth her family’s past. Her memoir will break your heart, but it will have you cheering wildly too because every new discovery is a triumph of art and love over hatred and loss.”—Amy Stewart, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Drunken Botanist
“A heartfelt, vivid account of a hunt for lost masterpieces painted by a great-grandfather that prove to be unforgettable relics of a rich world swept away by war, taking readers on a lusciously detailed international journey that reminds us that the search for missing paintings is, at heart, a search for missing history.”—Anne-Marie O’Connor, National Bestselling Author of The Lady in Gold
“Elizabeth Rynecki’s Chasing Portraits is part of a gathering wave of stories by the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of Holocaust survivors and Holocaust victims—stories that accept the burden of carrying this legacy forward, with all the anguish, the unanswered questions, and the unexpected joy of recognition this entails. With devotion and determination, Rynecki movingly demonstrates that, even after such unimaginable loss, even seventy years later, fragments of individual lives—and so the untold stories of individuals—can still be recovered . . . if only you keep searching.”—Glenn Kurtz, Author of Three Minutes in Poland
“In recent years, there has been an increase in the awareness of the problem of looted and stolen art, and Chasing Portraits makes an important contribution to the field. But it’s much more than just a tale of detective work. Elizabeth Rynecki’s story is transcendent, presenting the reader with an elevated level of passion and duty. For this reason, it sets itself apart from the rest of the field.”—Anthony M. Amore, Author ofStealing Rembrandts and The Art of the Con
Yesterday afternoon the ARC (Advanced Review Copy…aka a Galley) of Chasing Portraits arrived at my house! It’s a rather indescribable feeling… You write, revise, and edit some more, and then you turn the manuscript into the publisher and lo and behold, the manuscript turns into a book! Needless to say, holding this copy in my hands made my day!
Chasing Portraits, the book, is out September 6th and is available for pre-order.
“And what about the documentary?” you ask. I’ve hired an editor, Tina Nguyen. She’s delightful, fantastic, she understands the story, and she’s now watching the 100+ hours of footage. As for the release date… we need time and a bit more money. I’m writing grants and working on raising the last of the funds. Of course if you’d like to help support the film, donations are always welcome and are much appreciated.
Chasing Portraits is the story of one woman’s emotional quest to find the art of her Polish-Jewish great-grandfather, lost during World War II. Read more…
The book will be published September 6 from Penguin Random House and is available for pre-order from your favorite bookseller!
Chasing Portraits (the book!) is now available for pre-order on Amazon. Publication date is September 6, 2016, but it’s never too early to plan what you’ll be reading in the fall!
There is not yet cover art for the book, but I should have that from Penguin Random House in January. I will post it here as soon as the image is available.
The memoir of one woman’s emotional quest to find the art of her Polish-Jewish great-grandfather, lost during World War II.
Moshe Rynecki’s body of work reached close to eight hundred paintings and sculptures before his life came to a tragic end. It was his great-granddaughter Elizabeth who sought to rediscover his legacy, setting upon a journey to seek out what had been lost but never forgotten…
The everyday lives of the Polish-Jewish community depicted in Moshe Rynecki’s paintings simply blended into the background of Elizabeth Rynecki’s life when she was growing up. But the art transformed from familiar to extraordinary in her eyes after her grandfather, Moshe’s son George, left behind journals detailing the loss her ancestors had endured during World War II, including Moshe’s art. Knowing that her family had only found a small portion of Moshe’s art, and that many more pieces remained to be found, Elizabeth set out to find them.
Before Moshe was deported to the ghetto, he entrusted his work to friends who would keep it safe. After he was killed in the Majdanek concentration camp, the art was dispersed all over the world. With the help of historians, curators, and admirers of Moshe’s work, Elizabeth began the incredible and difficult task of rebuilding his collection.
Spanning three decades of Elizabeth’s life and three generations of her family, this touching memoir is a compelling narrative of the richness of one man’s art, the devastation of war, and one woman’s unexpected path to healing.
It’s been a busy few months for the Chasing Portraits project. Between the return from the two week filming trip to Poland in October, a new talk, the Indiewire Project of the Week win, the announcement of the grant awarded by the Claims Conference, and now this book deal…. well, WOW. It’s going to be another crazy, busy year, but a year about which I am incredibly excited. I am writing like a mad woman to finish the book so that I can put it into the hands of my editor at Berkley/Penguin before the end of the year so it can be in YOUR hands in late 2016!
A really enormous thank you goes out to a lot of friends and supporters who have helped me accomplish so much and to reach this particular goal. A special thank you to Jill Swenson of Swenson Book Development and to Sharlene Martin of Martin Literary Management. A year ago Jill began working with me on the Chasing Portraits book project. Her belief in the story, and my ability to tell it, helped me as I tackled writing the non-fiction book proposal. A year of telephone calls, Tweets, Facebook posts, and emails helped bring shape and narrative arc to the story. It is because of Jill’s wisdom and guidance that I produced a solid book proposal which led to fantastic literary representation from Sharlene Martin. Sharlene is the kind of agent every aspiring writer dreams of and should be so lucky to have on their team. After a few hours of Jill’s putting my query into Sharlene’s email and Sharlene’s reading of my proposal, I had representation. Her belief in my book project was wholehearted from the get go and the day she landed me this book deal was a fabulous one indeed! I am delighted to be working with Natalee Rosenstein at Berkley/Penguin.
There are now many new milestones to reach in this book writing journey. I promise to share and post many of them here.– Elizabeth