Samuel survived the Holocaust as a child, and creates art that tells the timeless story of truth in the face of challenge. He was born on August 12, 1933, in Vilna, Poland. A few years later, the area was incorporated into the independent republic of Lithuania. He was eight when the Germans invaded in 1941 and established a ghetto for the Jewish population. Bak began painting while a child and had his first exhibition (in the Vilna ghetto) in 1942 at nine.
Bak’s life has inevitably influenced his choice of images and themes. The particulars of Vilna and the Holocaust, of surviving and being a wandering Jew, are part of his individual biography; but all are also aspects of our shared human condition.
In 2017, The Samuel Bak Museum opened in the city of the artist’s birth, on the first two floors of the Tolerance Center of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum. In addition to the more than 50 works already donated by the artist, the Museum will accept more than 100 works in the coming years, and ultimately build a collection that spans the artist’s career. The Museum honors Bak’s life and art and is a testament to his commitment to educate current and future generations.
From his SPI recording:
“There is so much of my art that is becoming material for teaching. This is absolutely extraordinary. There are hundreds of books that use my art for their covers because the people feel that they can – in languages that I have absolutely no idea – that I cannot even read. But they’re paintings of mine. So, obviously, somewhere unwillingly, with my eyes shut, I hit the nail on its head. I consider myself very, very lucky that I have this response.”