Looted and Lost Art

November 20, 2013

Earlier this month, the shocking news story emerged about Cornelius Gurlitt and the hundreds of Nazi looted art works found in his Munich apartment. Gurlitt had been living in near seclusion among $1 billion worth ofart masterpieces–including Picasso, Chagall and Matisse–that we now know had been confiscated by the Nazis or sold cheaply by owners desperate to flee Hitler during the Second World War. Read Haaretz article here. 

Here we are more than seven decades after the end of the war and artwork owned and lost by Jewish families still blaze the headlines. Stories large and small continue to come forward. Elizabeth Rynecki, who will speak at OJM next spring, has an astonishing story about her great-grandfather, Moshe Rynecki, an artist living in Portland at the outbreak of the Second World War. Moshe’s concerns about preserving his 800 paintings and sculptures led him to hide work in and around Warsaw. He died in Majdanek, the concentration camp established by the Nazis after their invasion of Poland. After the war, Moshe’s family recovered approximately 100 paintings from a cellar of a Warsaw home and believed for many years that just this single bundle survived. 

In recent years Elizabeth Rynecki has tracked and discovered a considerable number of her great grandfather’s previously lost works. Her talk, "Chasing Portraits: a Great-Granddaughter’s Search for her Lost Art Legacy,” chronicles stories of the missing paintings and follows her efforts to rediscover the collection. Her story spans nearly a century, from the time the young Moshe Rynecki started painting and drawing images of the Jewish community over his father’s objections, to Elizabeth’s ongoing search for her family’s legacy of lost, missing, and looted paintings. Perhaps most intriguing part of her journey is the dual role she assumes as both historian and claimant. A vivid portrayal of Elizabeth’s recent discovery of her great-grandfather’s work in Toronto. The Canadian Jewish New tells you more. 

Mark your calendars for Elizabeth Rynecki’s talk: Thursday, April 24, 7pm at OJM.

Moshe Rynecki, Krasinski Park, 1930, Oil on cardboard, 33.5 x 49 cm