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2007 | 20 | 37-50

Article title

THE GHETTO IN PAINTINGS BY MAREK OBERLÄNDER AND IZAAK CELNIKIER (Getto w obrazach Marka Oberlandera i Izaaka Celnikiera)

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This article is an attempt to review the output of Marek Oberländer and Izaak Celnikier, two artists associated with the 'Arsenal circle', in the context of poetry of modernity and figuration typical for the period of the political 'thaw'. Their output from this period can be viewed as particular evidence of deliverance. The main topic of both Oberländer's and Celnikier's paintings was the experience of war, and especially the representation of the ghetto. Nevertheless, they treated this subject in a diametrically different manner. In the case of Oberländer, an orderly process of simplifying can be observed, leading to synthetic representation modelled on photographic document. This process culminated in the monumental forms in the painting entitled 'Branded'. Human figures in it were created in an expressive, rough painted matter, which accentuated the state of isolation and depersonalisation of the human being in the face of annihilation. Celnikier, in turn, referred to the world of symbols and religious representations through which he rendered the dual structure of his paintings: real scenes were imbued with religious connotations, while the compositional order was delineated by spheres of light and darkness. Celnikier's ghetto had the dimension of an individual experience and an universal, cosmic message at the same time. The artistic output from that period is a crucial material for identifying and interpreting the artistic and existentialist tensions of the period of the 'thaw'. On one hand, this output forms a part of the 'modernisation' current, while on the other it is the expression of individual stance. In the analysis presented in this article, particular meanings are attached to the brutal, expressionist formula of the works of those two artists, meanings referring to the struggle with one's own memory and the attempt at re-socialisation after the bitter war experience. The attitude of those artists is analysed in the context of Freudian notions of 'melancholy' and 'mourning'. Art is viewed as a kind of tool in negotiating between the problem of individual participation in the traumatic past and the problem of setting up one's reality anew. In this manner, modern artistic form becomes a problematic frame for the traumatic memories and self-identification of Jewish artists during the period of the 'thaw'.







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  • Marcin Lachowski, Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski, Instytut Historii Sztuki, sl. Raclawickie 14, 20-950 Lublin, Poland


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