The Cello Player 1921
Issachar Ber Ryback was a respected and prolific artist of Russian French Jewish descent. His artworks are extraordinary and 80 years after his death his work has become involved in a case misidentification or forgery in a modern day art scandal not of his making.
An article on Art.com written by is Konstantin Akinsha recounts the selling of a painting by Ryback titled the Progrom and the selling of two strikingly similar paintings by Stanislaus Bender titled saving the Torahs.
"A painting attributed to a prominent Eastern European Jewish artist that sold at Christie’s London last November 29 for $198,450 is a fake, a number of experts say. The work, called Pogrom, is attributed in the sale catalogue to Issachar Ber Ryback (1897–1935) and shows two bearded Jews fleeing, with Torah scrolls cradled in their arms. It more than doubled its high estimate of $78,200 to reach a price much higher than any previously paid for this artist’s work.....The same picture—or at least the same image, in a slightly different size—was sold for $3,700 at Christie’s Amsterdam on June 19, 1991, where it was attributed to Stanislaus Bender and called Saving the Torah Scrolls. Complicating the situation, a third and slightly larger version had been sold at Sotheby’s New York on June 25, 1990, for $35,750. This one was attributed to Bender and was called Saving the Torahs."
Issachar Ber Ryback was born in 1897 in Yelizavetgrad (Ukraine). He studied at the Kiev Academy in Moscow from 1911 – 1916. Ryback was an early modernist, he was associated with several major artistic styles and created works in virtually every artistic format, including painting, book illustrations, stained glass, stage sets, ceramic, tapestries and fine art prints. Ryback attended the art school in Kiev until 1916. He joined a progressive group of painters and was influenced by advocates of a modern Jewish literature such as David Bergelson and David Hofstein. Painters Alexander Bogomazov and Alexandra Exter were in Kiev at the time, and they taught him. In 1916 El Lissitzky and Ryback were given the task to make Jewish art memorials of Schtetls from Ukraine and Belarus. When he participated in an exhibition of Jewish paintings and sculptures in Moscow the spring 1917, his works were highly reviewed.
Woman Knitting in Living Room from In my Village 1932
As a young artist he initially experimented with Cubism and then began painting Jewish subject matter in the 1920s when critics and collectors began to appreciate his analytic Cubism and recognize his importance in the Russian vanguard movement. During the October Revolution in 1917, he took part in multiple activities to redefine avantgarde Yiddish culture, and moved to Moscow. In April 1921, after his father was killed by soldiers in the Pogroms in Ukraine, he fled to Kaunas and in October 1921 he obtained a visa for Germany. Note: A pogrom is a violent riot aimed at the massacre or persecution of an ethnic or religious group, particularly one aimed at Jews. The term originally entered the English language in order to describe 19th and 20th century attacks on Jews in the Russian Empire. He became a member of the Novembergruppe and exhibited his Cubist pictures at both the Berliner Secession and the Juryfreien Kunstausstellung.
Berlin Woman 1926
In 1921 Ryback moved to Berlin, where he participated in the “Der Sturm” group. He was invited back to Moscow in 1925 to design costumes for the Moscow Theatre.
The Lion 1924
Ryback illustrated three small Yiddish fairy tale books for Miriam Margolin. His Shtetl-litographies was published in 1923 by Schwellen-Verlag. At the time the Jewish education organization World ORT was situated in Berlin and he made the draft for its logo. Issachar returned to Moscow where he created sets for Yiddish theaters. He was unhappy in Russia and in 1926 he emigrated to Paris France and never returned to Russia.
In My Village 1932
When Ryback moved to Paris he adopted a new style of Realism, portraying Russian Jewish “shtetl” life, bringing out the forceful, distinctive character of his Yiddish-speaking subjects without resorting to sentimentalism.
Ryback was an important member of the Russian Jewish, modernist movement that included Lissitsky, Altman, Aronson and Chagall. Edouard Roditi said of him, “Ryback may be generally recognized as an artist whose genius bears comparison only with that of Chagall.” He died suddenly in Paris in 1935, a few days after the opening of a retrospective exhibition of his work organized by the Wildenstein Gallery.
The Circus Elephant 1925