The Rynecki Family Documentary Film Project
In 1939, when the Nazis invaded Poland, Moshe Rynecki realized that his paintings and sculptures were at risk of being destroyed. In an effort to protect and preserve his life's work, he bundled his collection of over 800 paintings and sculptures into a number of packages and distributed them to gentile friends in and around Warsaw. He told his family where the paintings were hidden so that after the war the family could collect the bundles and make the collection whole once again.
Unfortunately, Moshe perished in a Nazi concentration camp. When his surviving family went to retrieve the paintings, they were only able to find a single bundle. Today the Rynecki family has just over 100 of the original 800+ paintings; the rest of the collection is scattered or lost. Some paintings are known to be in museums and others with private collectors.
The Moshe Rynecki art project is a multi-layered, multi-media project, with a variety of content components, including museum exhibitions, an online virtual museum, and published books. The centerpiece of this new project is CHASING PORTRAITS, a documentary film. The film will take audiences on an intimate journey with Moshe Rynecki's great granddaughter as she meets one-on-one with museum curators and private collectors around the world who have her great-grandfather's paintings in their collections. This very personal expedition will take the audience to the heart of the Rynecki family's efforts to find Moshe's scattered, lost, or plundered works, and to discover previously missing paintings in people's private homes. Filming will take place in Poland, Israel, France, Canada, New York, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
ELIZABETH RYNECKI, DIRECTOR/PRODUCER/WRITER
Elizabeth is Moshe Rynecki's great-granddaughter. In 1999 she designed and created The Moshe Rynecki Virtual Museum (www.rynecki.org). She maintains the website and keeps it current in regards to academic research, educational resources, and tracking Rynecki paintings. In 2005 she was intimately involved with the manuscript preparation and publishing of two books related to the Moshe Rynecki collection ("Surviving Hitler in Poland: One Jew's Story," a memoir written by George Rynecki and a color catalog, "Jewish Life in Poland: The Art of Moshe Rynecki (1881-1943)."). Elizabeth has a BA in Rhetoric from Bates College ('91) and a Master’s degree in Rhetoric and Speech Communication from UC Davis ('94). She wrote her Master's thesis about children of holocaust survivors. CHASING PORTRAITS is her first documentary film project. She is the narrator of the film, as well as the primary researcher, writer, and custodian of family information, history, records, stories, and connections that make the telling of this intimate journey possible.
MOSHE RYNECKI (1881 - 1943)
Rynecki was born in Miedzyrecze, Poland, a small town east of Warsaw. Born into an Orthodox family, his love of painting was frowned upon by his parents, particularly his father. Despite his father’s efforts to dissuade his son from a life of painting, Moshe did draw and paint through much of his childhood while also attending to his regular studies at a traditional Yeshiva and then a Russian middle school. He eventually spent some time at the Warsaw Academy of Art (his dates of attendance are unknown). While he was in art school he met and married Paula Mittelsbach, the daughter of a Warsaw family of some means. While Moshe attended school, his wife was left to take care of their small art supply store on Krucza Street and their two small children (a girl and a boy).
Moshe’s most productive painting years were the 1920s and 1930s. During these years he primarily painted scenes of the Jewish community. His works show religious scenes (e.g., men studying the Talmud, Simhat Torah), images from everyday life (e.g. women doing household chores, men playing chess), and ultimately scenes from inside the Warsaw Ghetto.
In 1939, when the Nazis invaded Poland, Moshe realized his life's work was at great risk of being destroyed. In an effort to protect and preserve his paintings, he bundled his collection of over 800 paintings and sculptures into a number of packages and distributed them to gentile friends in and around Warsaw. He told his family where the paintings were hidden so that after the war the family could collect the bundles and make the collection whole once again. He then willingly went into the Warsaw Ghetto to “be with my people and to document their lives.”
In 1943 Moshe was deported from the Ghetto. It is believed that he perished in the Majdanek concentration camp.
MAKE A DONATION
TO SUPPORT THE PRODUCTION OF CHASING PORTRAITS
DONATE BY CHECK TO CHASING PORTRAITS
Send your contribution by check made out to The National Center for Jewish Film with "Chasing Portraits" written in the memo line.
Send to: The National Center for Jewish Film
Brandeis University, Lown 102 MS053
Waltham, MA 02143
DONATE BY PHONE TO CHASING PORTRAITS
Call 781-736-8600 Monday through Friday from 9am-5pm EST with your Visa or Mastercard.