Selected Works

Samuel Bak was born in 1933 Poland.
Bak was recognized from an early age as possessing extraordinary artistic talent. As Vilna came under German occupation in 1941, Bak and his family had to move into the Vilna Ghetto. At the age of nine, he had his first exhibition inside the ghetto. Bak and his mother escaped the destruction of the Vilna Ghetto by seeking refuge in a Benedictine convent.

They were helped by a Catholic Nun and spent most of their time there in an attic. By the end of the war, Samuel and his mother were the only members of his extensive family to survive. Bak and his mother as pre-war Polish citizens were allowed to leave Soviet-occupied Vilna and travel to central Poland, at first settling briefly in Lodz. They soon left Poland for good and traveled into the American occupied zone of Germany. From 1945 to 1948, he and his mother lived in Displaced Persons camps in Germany. He spent most of this period at the Landsberg am Lech DP camp in Germany. It was there he painted a self-portrait shortly before repudiating his Bar Mitzvah ceremony. Bak also studied painting in Munich during this period, and painted “A Mother and Son”, 1947, which evokes some of his dark memories of the Holocaust and escape from Soviet-occupied Poland.

In 1948, he and his mother were allowed to immigrate to Israel, and four years later he studied art at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. Bak spent most of his time in Israel studying and living in a modest flat in Tel Aviv and did not paint very much during that period. After serving from 1953 to 1956 in the Israel Defense Forces, Samuel Bak lived from 1956 to 1959 in Paris, where he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts. In 1956, he received the first prize of the American-Israeli Cultural Foundation. He then lived in the following places: Rome: 1959-1966, Israel: 1966-1974, New York: 1974-1977, Israel: 1977-1980, France: 1980-1984, Switzerland: 1984-1993, Weston, Massachusetts: 1993-present

While Bak’s work is complex and difficult to characterize, a few themes stand out:
In Childhood Memories, 1975, the pear, possibly the fruit of knowledge, evokes the loss of paradise and discovery of war. Pear trees are also ubiquitous in many of the areas of Europe where he grew up, especially Vilna.
The possibility of repair, the repair of a broken world, the tikkun haolam, is an important meaning contained in many of his still life works.

Bak’s childhood frustration with the story of Genesis, and his admiration for the genius of Michelangelo, blend in his post-Holocaust visiting of this theme.

Another artist whose influence is readily seen in his works, such as Angel of the Travelers, 1987, is Albrecht Dürer.
Still lifes—in times in which life is never still, never sufficiently protected, nor granted to everyone—attracted him as metaphors full of symbolic implications.

Chess as a theme of life has always fascinated Bak. In the DP camps and in Israel, he often played chess with his stepfather Markusha. Underground II, 1997, portrays chess pieces in a sunken, subterranean evocation of the Vilna ghetto.

A solitary boy can also be seen in his works. The boy represents his murdered childhood friend, Samek Epstein, and the memory of himself as a child during the Shoah.

Selected Gallery Exhibitions
Galleria Schneider, Rome, Italy – 1959, 1961, 1965, 1966
Alwin Gallery, London, United Kingdom – 1965
L’Angle Aigu, Brussels, Belgium – 1965
Gordon Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel – 1966
Roma Gallery, Chicago, IL – 1967
Pucker Safrai Gallery, Boston, MA – 1969, 1972, 1975, 1979, 1985, 1987, 1989, 1991
Hadassah “K” Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel – 1971, 1973, 1978
Aberbach Fine Art, New York, NY – 1974, 1975, 1978
Ketterer Gallery, Munich, Germany – 1977
Amstutz Gallery, Zurich, Switzerland – 1978
Goldman Gallery, Haifa, Israel – 1978
Vonderbank Gallery, Frankfurt, Germany – 1978
DeBel Gallery, Jerusalem, Israel – 1978, 1980
Thorens Fine Art, Basel, Switzerland – 1981
Kallenbach Fine Art, Munich, Germany – 1981, 1983, 1984, 1987
Soufer Gallery, New York, NY – 1986, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1997, 2006
Galerie Ludwig Lange, Berlin, Germany – 1987
Galerie Carpentier, Paris, France – 1988
Galerie Marc Richard, Zurich, Switzerland – 1990
Galerie de la Cathedrale, Fribourg, Switzerland – 1991, 1992
Galerie Picpus, Montreux, Switzerland – 1991, 1992
Pucker Gallery, Boston, MA – 1993, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010
George Krevsky Fine Art, San Francisco, CA – 1998
Beaver Country Day School, Chestnut Hill, MA – 2004
Finegood Gallery, Milken Jewish Center, Los Angeles, CA – 2004
St. Botolph Club, Boston, MA – 2004
Laurie M. Tisch Gallery, Jewish Community Center, Manhattan, NY – 2006

Selected Museum Exhibitions
Bezalel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel – 1963
Tel Aviv Museum, Tel Aviv, Israel – 1963
Rose Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA – 1976
Germanisches National Museum, Nuremberg, Germany – 1977
Heidelberg Museum, Heidelberg, Germany – 1977
Haifa University, Haifa, Israel – 1978
Kunstmuseum, Düsseldorf, Germany – 1978
Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn, Germany – 1978
Kunstmuseum, Wiesbaden, Germany – 1979
Stadtgalerie Bamberg, Villa Dessauer, Germany – 1988
Koffler Gallery, Toronto, Canada – 1990
Dürer Museum, Nuremberg, Germany – 1991
Temple Judea Museum, Philadelphia, PA – 1991
Jüdisches Museum, Stadt Frankfurt am Main, Germany – 1993
Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion, New York, NY – 1994
Janice Charach Epstein Museum and Gallery, West Bloomfield, MI – 1994
National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education, Seton Hall College, Greensburg, PA – 1995
Spertus Museum, Chicago, IL – 1995
B’Nai B’Rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum, Washington, DC – 1997
Holocaust Museum Houston, Houston, TX – 1997
Lamont Gallery, Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH – 1997
Panorama Museum, Bad Frankenhausen, Germany – 1998
National Museum of Lithuania, Vilnius, Lithuania – 2001
Snite Museum of Art, Notre Dame University, Notre Dame, IN – 2001
Florida Holocaust Museum, Saint Petersburg, FL – 2001, 2007, 2009
Canton Museum of Art, Canton, OH – 2002
Clark University, Worcester, MA – 2002
Neues Stadtmuseum, Landsberg am Lech, Germany – 2002
92nd Street Y, New York, NY – 2002
Jewish Community Center, Memphis, TN – 2003
University of Scranton, Scranton, PA – 2003
City Hall Gallery, Orlando, FL – 2004
Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX – 2004
Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota, Duluth, MN – 2004
Felix Nussbaum Haus, Osnabrueck, Germany – 2006
University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH – 2006
Yad Vashem Museum, Jerusalem, Israel – 2006
Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL – 2008
Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art, Tulsa, OK – 2008
Keene State College, Cohen Holocaust Center, Keene, NH – 2008
Brown University, John Hay Library, Providence, RI – 2009
DePauw University, The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics, Greencastle, IN – 2009
Drew University, Korn Gallery and University Library, Madison, NJ – 2009
Wabash College, Eric Dean Gallery, Crawfordsville, IN – 2009
Queensborough Community College, Holocaust Resource Center, Bayside, NY – 2009

Public Collections
Aidekman Arts Center at Tufts University, Medford, MA
Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY
Ben Uri Gallery, London, England
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brookline, MA
Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, FL
Boston Public Library, Boston, MA
Constitutional Court of South Africa, Braamfontein, South Africa
Davis Museum, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA
DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, MA
Dürer House, Nuremberg, Germany
Drew University, Madison, NJ
Facing History and Ourselves, Brookline, MA
Felix Nussbaum Haus, Osnabrück, Germany
Florida Holocaust Museum, St. Petersburg, FL
Germanisches National Museum, Nuremberg, Germany
German Parliament, Bonn, Germany
Hillel Foundation, Washington, DC
Hobart & William Smith College, Geneva, NY
Holocaust Museum Houston, Houston, TX
Hood Museum, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
Imperial War Museum, London, United Kingdom
Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
Jewish Museum, New York, NY
Jüdisches Museum, Stadt Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Keene State College, Cohen Holocaust Center, Keene, NH
Kunstmuseum, Bamberg, Germany
McMullen Museum, Boston, College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Municipality of Nuremberg, Germany
Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Canada
National Museum of Lithuania, Vilnius, Lithuania
Panorama Museum, Bad Frankenhausen, Germany
Philips-Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH
Rose Museum, Brandeis, Waltham, MA
Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Canada
Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art, Tulsa, OK
Simmons College, Boston, MA
Snite Museum of Art, Notre Dame University, South Bend, IN
Springfield Museum of Fine Art, Springfield, MA
Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel
Tufts University, Medford, MA
Tweed Art Museum, University of Minnesota, Duluth, MN
University of Haifa, Israel
University of Scranton, Scranton, PA
Vaud State, Switzerland
Wabash College, Crawfordsville, IN
Williams College of Art, Williamstown, MA
Yad Vashem Museum, Jerusalem, Israel
Queensborough Community College, Bayside, NY