Q&A with Swenson Book Development

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Trace Sonnleitner at Swenson Book Development about Chasing Portraits, family memories, research, writing, and the documentary film:

Chasing Portraits: A Great-Granddaughter’s Quest for Her Lost Art Legacy by Elizabeth Rynecki, is the story of her search for the art of her great-grandfather, which disappeared after he was killed in the Majdanek concentration camp. Moshe Rynecki’s body of work reached close to eight hundred paintings and sculptures, which he created between the First and Second World Wars in Warsaw, Poland. Recently, I interviewed her about her research, writing the book, and working on the documentary film.

Trace Sonnleitner: The interactions you portray between Moshe and his parents, and between you and your parents, and grandparents, remind me of some generational differences in my own family. When I ask them questions about their past they are usually answered with quickly worded stories that make me laugh, or draw out my sympathetic emotions. Did you intentionally display these generational differences in your own family?

Elizabeth Rynecki: My goal was to tell the story of my great-grandfather’s art, but it quickly became clear that each generation—the artist, his father, his son, my Dad, and I—had very different relationships to the art. My great-grandfather, the artist, felt an incredible compulsion to paint. His son, my Grandpa George, understood the historical importance of his father’s work, especially in light of his death in the Holocaust. Dad understood his father’s love of the art and asked me to build a website to make the art more accessible to others.

I have taken Dad’s initial steps and pushed an even more expansive view—to uncover details about the past so audiences might better appreciate and understand the history of the collection. Each generation’s expertise played a slightly different role in shaping how the next generation would experience and make sense of the art and its history.

[Read the rest of the interview on Swenson Book Development’s Blog]