Samuel Bak

Represented by Pucker Gallery since 1969

BORN: 1933 in Vilna, Poland
RESIDES: Weston, Massachusetts

Samuel Bak was born in 1933 in Vilna, Poland, at a crucial moment in modern history. From 1940 to 1944, Vilna was under Soviet and then German occupation. Bak’s artistic talent was first recognized during an exhibition of his work in the Ghetto of Vilna when he was nine years old. While he and his mother survived, his father and four grandparents all perished at the hands of the Nazis. At the end of World War II, Bak fled with his mother to the Landsberg Displaced Persons Camp, where he enrolled in painting lessons at the Blocherer School in Munich. In 1948, they immigrated to the newly established state of Israel where he studied at the Bezalel Art School in Jerusalem and completed his mandatory service in the Israeli army. In 1956, Bak went to Paris to continue his education at the École des Beaux Arts. While in Paris, he received a grant from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation to pursue his artistic studies. In 1959, he moved to Rome where his first exhibition of abstract paintings was met with considerable success. In 1961, he was invited to exhibit at the “Carnegie International” in Pittsburgh, PA, followed by solo exhibitions at the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Museums in 1963.

It was subsequent to these exhibitions that a major change in his art occurred. There was a distinct shift from abstract forms to a metaphysical, figurative means of expression. Ultimately, this transformation crystallized into his present pictorial language. Bak’s work weaves together personal history and Jewish history to articulate an iconography of his Holocaust experience. Across seven decades of artistic production, Bak has explored and reworked a set of metaphors, a visual grammar, and a vocabulary that ultimately privileges questions. Depicting a world destroyed and yet provisionally pieced back together, Bak's artwork preserves memory of the twentieth-century ruination of Jewish life and culture by way of an artistic passion and precision that stubbornly announces the creativity of the human spirit.

Since 1959, Bak has had numerous exhibitions in major museums, galleries, and universities throughout Europe, Israel, and the United States including retrospectives at Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem, and the South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town. Bak has lived and worked in Tel Aviv, Paris, Rome, New York, and Lausanne. In 1993, he settled in Massachusetts and became an American citizen. Bak has been the subject of numerous articles, scholarly works, and books; most notably a 400-page monograph entitled Between Worlds. In 2001, he published his touching memoir, Painted in Words, which has been translated into several languages. He has also been the subject of two documentary films and was the recipient of the 2002 German Herkomer Cultural Prize. Samuel Bak has received honorary doctorate degrees from the University of New Hampshire in Durham, NH, Seton Hill University in Greenburg, PA, and Massachusetts College of Art in Boston, MA. 

 

Past Exhibitions:

 
     Samuel Bak  Creation of Wartime III  Oil on canvas 50 x 75” BK1243

Samuel Bak
Creation of Wartime III
Oil on canvas
50 x 75”
BK1243

     Samuel Bak  Passing  Oil on canvas 36 x 30” BK2148

Samuel Bak
Passing
Oil on canvas
36 x 30”
BK2148

     Samuel Bak  In Search of a Portrait B  Acrylic and oil on canvas 24 x 20” BK1997

Samuel Bak
In Search of a Portrait B
Acrylic and oil on canvas
24 x 20”
BK1997

     Samuel Bak  Trinity  Oil on canvas 16 x 12" BK2146

Samuel Bak
Trinity
Oil on canvas
16 x 12"
BK2146

     Samuel Bak  Study after Ongoing Debate  Watercolor, gouache, crayon on paper 11 x 8.5” BK1314

Samuel Bak
Study after Ongoing Debate
Watercolor, gouache, crayon on paper
11 x 8.5”
BK1314