Born in Ukraine in 1897, Ryback is generally regarded as an important contributor to the Jewish Art Movement in Russia. In 1919-1920, he lived in Moscow and worked in close association with the artists of the Russian avant-garde and in particular with El Lissitsky, Pevsner and Gabo. In 1921 he moved to Berlin where he was associated with Der Sturm and in 1925, he was invited back to Soviet Russia to design sets and costumes for the Moscow theater. In 1926, he settled finally in Paris where he gave up abstract work and sought a new form of expression. He held his first one-man show in Paris in 1928 and later exhibited in Holland (1930) and Belgium (1932). In 1935, on the eve of his first large retrospective at the Wildenstein Galleries in Paris, he suddenly died.
In this beautiful interior we see the work of a remarkable colorist. The freshness of the reds, greens, blues and yellows, combined with the decorativeness of the wallpaper and the stylization of the furniture reflect the influence of Ryback's magnificent theater designs. The woman knitting is a quintessential figure of the Jewish world of the shtetl, which is further portrayed in a miniature scene outside the window.
Ryback's Shtetl series is considered his most important and personal contribution to a Jewish tradition in modern art. In these works, the artist depicts the joy and optimism of religious Jewish life despite the appalling suffering in the form of official anti-semitism and pogroms that the Jews were forced to endure at the time that the work was painted. His work is most aptly compared to the oeuvre of fellow artist Marc Chagall.
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