The Hirszenberg Brothers – In Search of the Promised Land

The Hirszenberg Brothers – In Search of the Promised Land

The Hirszenberg Brothers – In Search of the Promised Land exhibition is one of the events celebratory of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute, an institution of post-war Poland most vital for the preservation and propagation of the heritage of Polish Jews. The exhibition offers a globally unique monographic presentation of the surviving oeuvre of two painters, brothers Samuel and Leon, and of their younger brother Henryk, an architect. Alongside Maurycy Gottlieb, Samuel is considered one of the precursors of ‘Jewish art’ in Poland. The work of Leon and Henryk has until now remained virtually unknown.

Mar 30 – Jun 05

Born in Łódź to a large Jewish family, the three Hirszenbergs chose different career paths, seeking their individual ‘promised lands,’ as they found their way from the strictures and restraints of the orthodox Jewish community, through the adventure of Zionism, to become citizens of the world and pacifists. They have figured in Jewish history and tradition as representatives of the myth of the eternal wanderer, the ever nomadic artists. Today, we know much more about them, both from the latest research results and directly from the Israeli family of Henryk, who settled in Palestine in 1936 and died in the reborn State of Israel in 1955. 

Samuel was invited to Palestine by his friend Boris Schatz, the founder of the Bezalel Academy of Arts in Jerusalem, to join him in that artistic project. Unfortunately, the artist died there prematurely, in 1908. Upon leaving Poland in 1936, Henryk took with him the older brother’s sketchbook from the student years in Krakow and donated it to the newly founded Museum of Art Tel Aviv. Unable to locate Samuel’s gravesite (probably destroyed during the construction of a new road in Jerusalem), Henryk was nonetheless symbolically reunited with his brother, through an inscription on the architect’s tombstone. Least known is the biography of Leon, who died in Paris, in 1945.

Though separated by fate, Leon and Henryk always remembered Samuel as their master and mentor, and their beloved older brother, who always supported them with his talent and his means providing for their livelihood and education: Leon began his studies at the Academy of Munich while Henryk chose architecture.

Juxtaposition of their diverse works, made possible through the joint exhibition, enables us to consider in a new light the creative paths of the three brothers, as it brings into focus nearly a century of developments in life and art occurring around them.

The present selection includes some of the Hirszenberg brothers’ best works, arranged within a modern space. Works by each of the brothers are presented against different colour backgrounds of blue, red, or yellow. In this a symbolic reference is made to the Neoplastic Room designed by Władysław Strzemiński for the Museum of Art in Łódź. Works by the Hirszenbergs, whose lives were linked with Łódź, are presented in a dialogue of ideas, both with regard to their creators’ lives and oeuvre, and in relation to the achievements of the Polish avant-garde we celebrate the centenary of this year.

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