“Krasinski Park, 1930” by Moshe Rynecki. (Courtesy Rynecki Family)
“Krasinski Park, 1930” by Moshe Rynecki. (Courtesy Rynecki Family)

Paintings of Jewish life in prewar Poland at Reutlinger

A new exhibit at the Jewish Heritage Museum at the Reutlinger Community in Danville features reproductions of famed Polish artist Moshe Rynecki’s paintings of prewar Jewish life in Warsaw.

Oakland resident Elizabeth Rynecki, the artist’s great-granddaughter, discovered the journals of Moshe’s son George after his death, which inspired her to write a book called “Chasing Portraits: A Great-Granddaughter’s Quest for Her Lost Art Legacy.” She also produced a documentary film released in 2018.

The book and film trace how she learned the truth of her family’s Holocaust history, and the meaning of the portraits hanging on her grandfather’s walls. Moshe Rynecki’s art, comprising some 800 paintings, was exhibited widely in Poland and other parts of Europe in the first decades of the 20th century. While Rynecki died in the Majdanek extermination camp, his wife and sons survived in hiding and later were able to recover about 120 of the paintings they had hidden around Warsaw.

“Moshe Rynecki: In Their Own Voices” shares the thoughts of the artist and two generations of the Rynecki family in an exploration of the family’s legacy. The exhibit of 22 images is curated by Carol Reif, informed by a 1981 show of Rynecki’s works at the Judah L. Magnes Museum.

The 1981 show was curated by Ruth Eis, a Bay Area painter. She and her husband, Max established the Jewish Heritage Museum in 2000 with their donation of their Judaica collection. Objects from the collection as well as paintings by Eis will complement the Rynecki images.

Elizabeth Rynecki will give a visual presentation about her work from 2 to 4 p.m. Feb. 2 at the Reutlinger. She also will speak about her grandfather George Rynecki and Ruth Eis and their involvement with the Magnes. Both the event and the exhibition are free.

Rynecki’s film is now available for purchase on DVD as well as via streaming on iTunes and Amazon. For information, visit https://www.firstrunfeatures.com/chasingportraitsdvd.html

“Moshe Rynecki: In Their Own Voices,” Reutlinger Community for Jewish Living, 4000 Camino Tassajara, Danville. Through April 30. Call (925) 648-2800 for viewing hours.

Laura Pall
Laura Paull

Laura Paull is J.'s former culture editor, and was a longtime J. freelance writer before that.