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Yad Vashem Traveling Exhibitions

An Arduous Road

Samuel Bak - 60 Years of Creativity

Selected Panels from the Exhibition

Portrait with a Star, 1973Self-portrait, 1945The Family, 1974Star of David, 1976Under the Trees, 2001

Under the Trees, 2001Under the Trees, 2001
Oil on canvas

Ponary’s landscape with its bell towers as seen from afar, cut off in the center of the painting, its foliage still green, hovers between heaven and earth. Roots are planted yet it hangs in the air. “Softly, softly! Let’s be silent! /Graves are growing here”, poet Kaczerginski describes Ponary in the poem cited at the head of this section. Already then, amid the raging inferno around him, the poet saw the place in his mind’s eye. The forest, instead of trees, unnaturally sprouted graves. And if indeed it did sprout graves, where were all the forest trees’ roots welcoming visitors to the site? Why did Nature remain silent in the face of what was happening? Bak cannot and will not accept the inherent order of things that had been thoroughly violated. In his paintings (cat. 106, 107), he is called upon to answer the question that Bialik had already posed after his visit to Kishinev: “For the Lord invoked Spring and the massacre together: the sun shone, the acacia bloomed, and the slaughterer slaughtered”. The trees, in flight above the killing pits, are as fanciful as the tombstones; neither the one nor the other is planted in the soil of reality, rather existing in the realm of the painting, the artist’s emotional space.