Chasing Portraits
The Rynecki Family Documentary Film Project

In 1939, when the Nazis invaded Poland, Moshe Rynecki realized that his paintings and sculptures were at risk of being destroyed. In an effort to protect and preserve his life's work, he bundled his collection of over 800 paintings and sculptures into a number of packages and distributed them to gentile friends in and around Warsaw. He told his family where the paintings were hidden so that after the war the family could collect the bundles and make the collection whole once again.

Unfortunately, Moshe perished in a Nazi concentration camp. When his surviving family went to retrieve the paintings, they were only able to find a single bundle. Today the Rynecki family has just over 100 of the original 800+ paintings; the rest of the collection is scattered or lost. Some paintings are known to be in museums and others with private collectors.

The Moshe Rynecki art project is a multi-layered, multi-media project, with a variety of content components, including museum exhibitions, an online virtual museum, and published books. The centerpiece of this new project is Chasing Portraits, a documentary film. The film will take audiences on an intimate journey with Moshe Rynecki's great granddaughter as she meets one-on-one with museum curators and private collectors around the world who have her great-grandfather's paintings in their collections. This very personal expedition will take the audience to the heart of the Rynecki family's efforts to find Moshe's scattered, lost, or plundered works, and to discover previously missing paintings in people's private homes. Filming will take place in Poland, Israel, France, Canada, New York, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Chasing Portraits website: www.chasingportraits.org

Filmmaker Blog: rynecki.org/blog/

In the News: Lost and Found: Elizabeth Rynecki has dedicated her life to tracking down her great-grandfather's scattered works of art | Hadassah Magazine, April/May, 2015

In the News: Chasing Portraits named IndieWire Project of the Day | Feb 2, 2015

In the News: Radio interview with filmmaker Elizabeth Rynecki | KHSU Through the Eyes of Women, Sept. 8, 2014

In the News: A lost world on canvas: Oakland woman reclaims her great-grandfather's legacy | JWeekly, Dec. 31, 2014

In the News: "Artworks lost in Nazi era at heart of hunt" by Sam Whiting | Cover Story for San Francisco Chronicle Datebook, Feb 2, 2014

In the News: Cover Story for "The quest for paintings from a lost Jewish world:
Elizabeth Rynecki attempts to locate her great-grandfather Moshe’s art, so that while he perished in the Holocaust, his story may live" | The Times of Israel, Jan. 27, 2014


Kickstarter Campaign

 

Filmmaker Elizabeth Rynecki launched a successful Kickstarter to raise funds for Chasing Portraits!

Link: Chasing Portraits Kickstarter page


About the Filmmakers

ELIZABETH RYNECKI, DIRECTOR/PRODUCER/WRITER

Elizabeth is Moshe Rynecki's great-granddaughter. In 1999 she designed and created The Moshe Rynecki Virtual Museum (www.rynecki.org). She maintains the website and keeps it current in regards to academic research, educational resources, and tracking Rynecki paintings. In 2005 she was intimately involved with the manuscript preparation and publishing of two books related to the Moshe Rynecki collection ("Surviving Hitler in Poland: One Jew's Story," a memoir written by George Rynecki and a color catalog, "Jewish Life in Poland: The Art of Moshe Rynecki (1881-1943)."). Elizabeth has a BA in Rhetoric from Bates College ('91) and a Master’s degree in Rhetoric and Speech Communication from UC Davis ('94). She wrote her Master's thesis about children of holocaust survivors.Chasing Portraits is her first documentary film project. She is the narrator of the film, as well as the primary researcher, writer, and custodian of family information, history, records, stories, and connections that make the telling of this intimate journey possible.

MOSHE RYNECKI (1881 - 1943)

Rynecki was born in Miedzyrecze, Poland, a small town east of Warsaw. Born into an Orthodox family, his love of painting was frowned upon by his parents, particularly his father. Despite his father’s efforts to dissuade his son from a life of painting, Moshe did draw and paint through much of his childhood while also attending to his regular studies at a traditional Yeshiva and then a Russian middle school. He eventually spent some time at the Warsaw Academy of Art (his dates of attendance are unknown). While he was in art school he met and married Paula Mittelsbach, the daughter of a Warsaw family of some means. While Moshe attended school, his wife was left to take care of their small art supply store on Krucza Street and their two small children (a girl and a boy).

Moshe’s most productive painting years were the 1920s and 1930s. During these years he primarily painted scenes of the Jewish community. His works show religious scenes (e.g., men studying the Talmud, Simhat Torah), images from everyday life (e.g. women doing household chores, men playing chess), and ultimately scenes from inside the Warsaw Ghetto.

In 1939, when the Nazis invaded Poland, Moshe realized his life's work was at great risk of being destroyed. In an effort to protect and preserve his paintings, he bundled his collection of over 800 paintings and sculptures into a number of packages and distributed them to gentile friends in and around Warsaw. He told his family where the paintings were hidden so that after the war the family could collect the bundles and make the collection whole once again. He then willingly went into the Warsaw Ghetto to “be with my people and to document their lives.”

In 1943 Moshe was deported from the Ghetto. It is believed that he perished in the Majdanek concentration camp.

"A page-turning personal history of Rynecki’s search for her great-grandfather’s legacy…A wonderful story beautifully told. Rynecki’s yearslong search, successes, frustrations, and failures are a study in perseverance.” —Kirkus Reviews

Read more about Elizabeth Rynecki’s book Chasing Portraits: A Great-Granddaughter's Quest for Her Lost Art Legacy


Donate to the Production of Chasing Portraits

Donations are tax deductible. Gifts over $250 will receive a letter for tax purposes.

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Send your contribution by check made out to "The National Center for Jewish Film".
Include "Chasing Portraits" in the memo line.

Send to:
The National Center for Jewish Film
Brandeis University, Lown 102 MS053
Waltham, MA 02454

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