Visu­al Arts

Icon of Loss: The Haunt­ing Child of Samuel Bak

Dan­na Nolan Fewell and Gary A. Phillips
  • Review
By – September 13, 2011
To many, the paint­ings of Samuel Bak rep­re­sent the Holo­caust. Not only are they beau­ti­ful­ly paint­ed in an Old Mas­ter style, but their images of Holo­caust dev­as­ta­tion and tragedy are mov­ing and unfor­get­table. Many of us are famil­iar with the pho­to­graph of a young boy in the War­saw Ghet­to, arms raised in sur­ren­der— his inno­cence vio­lat­ed by a Ger­man SS point­ing a gun at him. Although this par­tic­u­lar child hap­pened to sur­vive, Bak uses his image in a series of paint­ings to rep­re­sent all the chil­dren of the Shoah, most of whom per­ished. Cyn­thia Ozick’s com­ments on Bak’s paint­ings of the boy in vari­a­tions of the theme and set­tings, but always with his hands up, are so apt that I usurp them here in a par­tial quo­ta­tion: “…Nev­er, nev­er, nev­er was pity so twinned with out­rage, or vision­ary image-mak­ing so unit­ed with unfor­giv­ing his­tor­i­cal fact…In Bak’s work there is absolute knowl­edge; I think he must under­stand that his eye and his hand are anoint­ed.” List of Bak exhibits, gal­leries, muse­ums and films.
Mar­cia W. Pos­ner, Ph.D., of the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Cen­ter of Nas­sau Coun­ty, is the library and pro­gram direc­tor. An author and play­wright her­self, she loves review­ing for JBW and read­ing all the oth­er reviews and arti­cles in this mar­velous periodical.

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