Perished Jewish Artists of Poland

Sandel, Yosef. Perished Jewish Artists of Poland—Second Volume. 

Excerpted, translated for this website

Moshe Rynecki was born in 1885 in Poland. It was difficult for him to include himself among the chiefs of modern art (i.e. to the painters of European status). In 1907, Rynecki was listed as a student in the Warsaw Art School. It is possible he also studied there in later years. Art school did not give him a lot. His style was so distinctive and his form so different in comparison with the other graduates of the school, it is hard to believe that the school did not keep better track of him. Rynecki’s portraits [unknown words] often gave the impression of Byzantine art. Moshe Rynecki completely focused his life and creativity on the world of people, who with their way of life, with their specific manner, were totally separated from contemporary civilization. These were Jews in long kaftans and skull caps—Jews who lived with tradition, which they cultivated for generations. The stale atmosphere, in which the artist lived, the great masses who earned their living “from the air.” This was the circle of people in which he “traveled” and who he brought out in his paintings. In his painter’s language, Rynecki captured the atmosphere and the spirit/mood of this backward and hardened environment with their traditional ways. Everything that came from this strange painter’s hand, splendidly reflected the environment in which he lived. It often happened as the artist willingly and spiritedly expressed the atmosphere of need and neglect, by using squalid colors.

Rynecki painted mostly group scenes. Intelligent Jews in small synagogues, houses of study, or in small schools, where there were only praying shoemakers, tailors, and other craftsmen. The type of people Rynecki painted differentiated very little from one another. The subjects in his paintings were invariably simple Jews that gave the impression they had emerged from something like an abyss. People who chatted in their own narrow domain. The artist observes them and brings them out, as if they were illuminated with a reflector, which “calls out” glamorous yellow, green or violet reflections. One also finds gray days of ashy color, which Rynecki gladly employed in order to express the atmosphere of poverty and hardship.

Rynecki was much like the Jews he painted. He believed that bearing your troubles in public helps to bear the difficult fate. Therefore, the small synagogue was his second home. There, he used to listen to the numerous phenomena about fate from this or that Jew whom he knew and to whom various events happened. Together with them, he used to participate in the rare joys. This was shown from time to time at various holidays or the birth of a child, a Bar-Mitzvah of a son, or a wedding in the family. Rynecki splendidly brought forth these moods, and he recorded these moments with his pastels or water colors.

Rynecki lived in Warsaw on Kruzca Street, where he and his wife had a small store, which didn’t prosper too badly. She thought of her husband as a “Lerner” (a Talmudic student) who instead of sitting over his books, “fixed” other students on paper. She [connected this] to his idleness. The people that Rynecki brings out, these are masterful [untranslated Hebrew word] that carried their [powers] so long until they were not broken. [Missing text] …dirty clothing had a lot to say about the lives of these people. These truths, Rynecki splendidly could bring out in his paintings. Rynecki also painted scenes of life of single people or complete Jewish families. Here, for example, he paints a Jew, a home-builder, with a beard, wearing a “tallis-kotn” [small tallis] who is sitting by a weaving loom. In a second painting, which shows a Jew, a smith with his helper in the smithy. The smithy is shining with a bright light from the fire. Also, Rynecki’s smith, dressed in a [unknown word] and wears tzitzis [fringes]. He shows also a small factory of children’s toys, where at the table, Jewish girls are working and the boss of the plant, a Jew in a long kaftan with a skullcap on his head, watching the girls so that they should not procrastinate. He also paints other Jewish carpenters, shoemakers, tailors by their work benches. Rynecki’s pictures also show diverse religious customs and ways of life; scenes that show how they conduct the seder, observe the Sabbath, mourn a deceased person, visiting a woman in childbirth, etc. And for example, we see in one of the paintings, a house, in which a woman in childbirth lies in bed and nearby stand children, who are pulling out pieces of candy from the empty crib. On a second painting, we see a preacher [Magid], wearing a prayer shawl and giving a sermon, gesturing hotly. This painting The Seder Night magnificently brings out solemnity in its total splendor. All of Rynecki’s paintings are simple, and without pretense. They also seem familiar, and a little ordinary. But generally, he perhaps brings out specifics from his world of Jewish poverty, in which the painter lived, with all its cares, habits, sorrow, and rare happiness. Cracow had its Artur Marcovich, who with a lot of passion and great culture, brought out in his pastels the local Jewish environment. Warsaw on the other hand, had in the person of Moshe Rynecki, found in the consoling painter “fixed in the location,” the exiled Jews. Although at best, expressed itself from Rynecki who was a strong “primitive artist” and the tone of his colors—often totally not distilled. Rynecki heard from the management committee of the association of Jewish Plasticers. In some catalog of the Warsaw Zachenta, Rynecki’s work is mentioned which were shown in an exhibition. Rynecki often participated in the exhibit of the Jewish Society to promote art. His watercolors were even shown in the international exhibit of art in Brussels. For the Jubilee Exhibit of the Jewish Union of “Plasticers” showed some of his works, which made a good impression. Rynecki also heard from the jury of the exhibition.

About the fate of Moshe Rynecki during the Hitler occupation, we know almost nothing. In no publication that dealt with the Warsaw ghetto, did I find any mention of this artist. Rynecki’s wife, who saved herself from the so called (Aryan?) side, said that her husband perished Sept. 17, 1942. That is all that turned up about Rynecki, during the tragedy of the occupation.