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Following World War II he emigrated to Israel and in 1967 to the United States, (he and his family became US citizens in 1973). He died in Boca Raton, FL in 2004.
Chaim Goldberg was born in a wooden clapboard house built by his father, a village cobbler. As a young boy of 6 he gravitated to creating little figurines carved from stones. Later he took up drawing and painting with basic shoemaker paints that he found at his father's workbench. He was the ninth child and the first boy after eight girls. He grew up in a religious home in Kazimierz Dolny. He would observe and draw the beggars and klezmers who frequented his home as guests. His father would encourage their stays by letting it be known that the humble Goldberg home was open for those who could not pay for their night stay at any of the inns. They were surely welcome there. These characters became Chaim's early models.
Circa 1931, in front of his home before going to the Mehoffer Art Academy on a full scholarship.
Discovery & The Artist's First Shtetl period
Chaim Goldberg, the youngest student to be accepted in 1934, with the student body accepted to the Academy that year. (Chaim Goldberg is standing to the left of the professor, holding a bottle of wine)
On a crisp day in the fall of 1931, Dr. Saul Silberstein, a student of Sigmund Freud who was doing post doctorate work on his book, Jewish Village Mannerisms came into the Goldberg cobbler workshop to have his shoes repaired. As he waited for his shoes, he noticed the numerous art works that were attached to the wall with shoe nails and inquired who the artist was. Silberstein spent the entire night reviewing the young artist's work. In the morning they went by foot to Lublin, a distance of 26 miles and Dr. Silberstein obtained the opinions of several respected individuals of the work by Chaim Goldberg. He then got him several small scholarships based on these letters of recommendation. This helped finance his early education at the "Józef Mehoffer School for Fine Arts", in Kraków, from which he graduated in 1934. Dr. Silberstein was able to interest several other wealthy sponsors, such as the honorable Felix Kronstein, a judge, and a newspaper publisher who supported the artist through his graduation from the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. At 17, he was the youngest to be admitted and studied under the Rector of the Academy and Professor Tadeusz Pruszkowski, Kowarski, W?adys?aw Skoczylas and Jan Gotard [pl].
The beauty of Kazimierz Dolny had long ago been discovered by artists who had flocked there in large numbers over the years. Between the First World War and the Second World War, Kazimierz Dolny became known as an Art Colony as well. Professor Tadeusz Pruszkowski had built a summer studio in the mountains and attracted his students to come down and paint outdoors. many of these artists as well as older ones painted the life they saw and the landscape.
Chaim Goldberg became stimulated by this traffic of artists and began to do art as well. When he was discovered he had not attended any school or private lessons. He watched what the other artists did and was encouraged to do the same; set himself up with a home-made easel and paint outdoors. When he was discovered at the age of 14, his collection included landscapes as well as paintings of the vagabond types that frequented his home as guests.
The War Years 1939-1945
The Dismantling. Oil on canvas 40" x 60" (1991)
Chaim was conscripted into the Polish army in the fall of 1938. He was assigned to the artillery brigade that guarded Warsaw. After the Polish army surrendered to the Germans he was taken into custody as a POW (Prisoner of War) and held in a labor camp. He managed to escape and tried to rescue his parents and family who would not believe that the Germans had any intention of hurting the Jews. He could not motivate them to flee with him. So Chaim, his future wife, her sister and their parents became exiles escaping to Russia on foot. They kept moving north as the German armies advanced and ended up in Novosibirsk. Chaim married Rachel on April 15, 1944. They were able to return to Poland in 1946.
Chaim Goldberg received a fellowship from the Polish Ministry of Culture to study at the Ecole de beaux Arts in Paris and in 1949 they returned to Poland. He worked on various commissions for the Polish Government and in 1955 made an application to be allowed to immigrate to Israel.
The Goldberg family arrived in Israel in 1955 and began a new life. They stayed in Israel until 1967 where Chaim exhibited and sold his work to American, Canadian tourists and Israeli collectors. Despite that Safed (near Tiberias) was the art colony of record, Chaim Goldberg's presence in northern Tel Aviv became a well known bit of art trivia to almost everyone and his studio drew from the wealthier tourists who frequented Hotel Ramat Aviv.
The Artist's Second Shtetl Period
Once ensconced in his large studio, Chaim Goldberg began to create large paintings that depicted Jewish life he remembered in his Shtetl of Kazimierz Dolny. During this period, of 1960-1966 he created some of his best known paintings, such as The Wedding (in the collection of the Spertus Museum, Chicago); The Shtetl (in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY);, Simchat Torah (in a private collection, NY); and Don't Forget.
Goldberg creating a hand-engraved image on a copper plate.
Chaim Goldberg began to experiment with new shapes and mediums, such as wood carving and stone chiseling in Israel, in the year 1964. He began with abstract drawings of three-dimensional shapes floating and shooting into space. These darting and frequently marching shapes were influenced by the space race between the United States and Russia. He continued to develop his modernist side, despite his commitment to memorializing the life of the Shtetl. It is a very rate to see this dichotomy between realism and making art for art sake in abstract forms with any artist. He continued this dichotomy throughout the rest of his life by dividing his day into sessions in different parts of his studios.
In 1970, after arriving in the United States, his drive to create art-for-art-sake turned to create drawings, watercolors, oil paintings and sculptures based on his impressions of daily life. His response to the modern dwelling and to the masks people use when communicating with one another began to form a viable collection of an artist's inner thoughts and feelings.
He foresaw the demise of the Soviet Union in 1973 and created a series of large drawings that depict the Soviet 'empire' as a clawed monster hanging on by the extreme ends of its fangs to a network of spiderweb-like formations meant to depict their deceptions and lies. His drawings of the modern ways are a documentation of the artist's feelings. He saw in his dreams the errors we humans commit towards one another. They are a great window into the feelings of a modern artist caught in the complicated city dwelling and seeing no hope for escape from the noise and pollution.
Chaim Goldberg's insatiable desire to create art in many mediums knew no end. He engraved and sculpted in wood, stone, and metal. Here we see a 9 1/2 foot tall carving from oak, titled WE. He would stain his sculptures in various tones and have editions of 8 bronzes cast of each one he chose for editioning. His main advisor was his wife of 65 years, Rachel.
Chaim and his wife Rachel of 65 years in their home in Boca Raton, FL, Spring of 1995.
Chaim Goldberg, 1982 in his Houston, TX sculpture workshop. A few large carvings are seen in process.
WE, a 9 1/2 foot carving in Texas Oak.
The United States
In 1967, Goldberg arrived in the United States, with a two-year business visa on an exhibition-tour and continued to paint, and create line engravings of his village characters, as well as sculpt. His and subject matter widened while living in New York which became one of his "themes." He and his family decided to become citizens of the United States in 1973.
I. B. Singer wrote in an introduction to an exhibit catalog "Chaim Goldberg came from the shtetl and remembers its every detail. He is never abstract but is true to the objects and their divine order. His work is enriching Jewish art and the image of our tradition."
Goldberg's "Culture Shock" series and other series based on real life and politics of the period as were the works of the series the "Mad Drivers." Some of his work dealt with his own dream sequences, such as the "Violin Thief Sequence" and the "Bird Dream Sequence."
In 1974, Chaim attended a performance of the "Emmett Kelly, Jr. Circus" and began a series of drawings and other works on paper inspired by the "Circus theme." Then dance took center stage as his main subject. He also carved in wood. His body of work on the dance theme included paintings, watercolors, and sculpture carved in wood or made of aggregate concrete. Goldberg continued line engraving and created a suite of engravings titled, "Spring".
In 1944 while in exile in Russia, Goldberg began making an effort to document what he heard. He returned to Poland with his wife and son, Victor, and began to create over 150 works of art dealing with the Holocaust, many of which are in the permanent collection of several museums, namely the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago.
In 1987, while working on the Holocaust theme, Goldberg returned to painting his beloved Kazimierz Dolny and the Jewish life in the village. This time his paintings were less lyrical and surreal, and instead were more 'story-telling' and documentary. After completing some fifty large canvases in 1997, at the age of 80, he was diagnosed with a disabling illness. He died on June 26, 2004 in Boca Raton, Florida.
1931 - "Polish Landscapes," Group Show, Kazimierz-Dolny, Poland
1934 - Studio Show, Kazmierz-Dolny, Poland
1936 - National Group Show, Warsaw, Poland
1937 - National Group Show, Warsaw, Poland
(the artist, his future wife and her family were refugees in Siberia)
1946 - "Poland After World War II" solo show, Shtczechin, Poland
2016 - One Man Show "I Remember The Shtetl" of 100 themed oil paintings, watercolors, drawings, plus 30 of his graphics; works in such mediums as engravings, etchings and wood engravings, at the Palace of Art in Kraków, September 15 - October 9
Chaim Goldberg, wood engraving in his outdoor studio, Houston, TX, circa 1977
Chaim Goldberg in his Boca Raton, Florida home and studio, fall of 1995
References and Sources (Books and Exhibit Catalogs)
?ukasz Grzejszczak. "Bezpieczna przysta? artysty"(available with subscription or purchase). Abraham Adolf Behrman (1876-1942). Stowarzyszenie Historyków Sztuki. Retrieved 2012.
Darmon, Adrian Around Jewish Art: A Dictionary of Painters, Sculptors and Photographers, Carnot Press, April 2004, ISBN1592090427
Brody, Moskowitz-, Cynthia -Bittersweet Legacy, Creative Responses to the Holocaust, University Press of America, Inc. Lanham, Maryland 20706 (Pages 268-269)
Dr. Waldemar Odorowski; Dorota ?wi?cicka-Odorowska; Dorota Seweryn-Puchalska; Stanis?aw ?wi?cicki; Jaros?aw Mo?dzioch, In Kazimierz the Vistula River spoke to them in Yiddish, Published by the Muzeum Nadwi?la?skie, Kazimierz Dolny, Poland, 2007.
Del Calzo, Nick, Rockford, Renee, Raper J., Linda - The Triumphant Spirit, published by the Triumphant Spirit Foundation, 1997. ISBN0965526003
Helzel Florence, B., Shtetl life: the Nathan and Faye Hurvitz Collection, Judah L. Magnes Museum, 1993
Queens Council for the Arts, Chaim Goldberg: Israeli Artist, 1971
Goldberg, Shalom, Chaim Goldberg: My Shtetl Kazimierz Dolny, SHIR Press, 2007
Harris, Elizabeth, Chaim Goldberg's Shtetl, exhibit catalog published by the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1973.
Lubieniecki, Krzysztof, Polish Engravers, by General Books LLC, 1983
Chaim Goldberg. Powrót do Kazimierza nad Wis / Chaim Goldberg. Kazimierz Revisited. Editor and Contributor Dr. Waldemar Odorowski, published by Muzeum Nadwi?la?skie w Kazimierzu Dolnym - December, 2013 ISBN9788360736418
Brief description of the publication by the Museum: "
Katalog wystawy o tym samym tytule, która prezentowana jest w nowej siedzibie Muzeum Nadwi?la?skiego w Kazimierzy Dolnym. Wydawnictwo prezentuje ?ycie i twórczo Chaima Goldberga, który urodzi? si? w Kazimierzu w 1917 roku w biednej rodzinie tutejszego szewca. Dzi?ki odkryciu jego talentu przez dr. Saula Silbersteina i udzieleniu wsparcia finansowego m?ody artysta mia? szans? studiowa? w prywatnej Szkole L. Mehofferowej w Krakowie, a nastepnie w Akademii Sztuk Pi?knych w Warszawie. Tutaj trafi? pod skrzyd?a prof. Tadeusza Pruszkowskiego, który by? nota bene twórc? kazimierskiej kolonii artystycznej. Los sprawi?, ?e Chaim po ucieczce przed Zag?ad? nigdy do Kazimierza ju? nie wróci?, ale miasteczko ci?gle by?o obecne w jego twórczo?ci. Obrazy kronikarza kazimierskiego sztetla pokazuj? zarówno ?ycie codzienne jego mieszka?ców, jak i dni ?wi?teczne. To niezwyk?a opowie o ?wiecie, który odszed? na zawsze.
Katalog wzbogacaj? eseje specjalistów, w tym syna artysty Shaloma Goldberga."
Bibliography of Articles
Aloisio, Julie, "Chaim Goldberg's Art Celebrates Life," The Villager, 1988, Miami, Florida
Alyagon, Ofra, "Chaim Goldberg The Artist," (Life and Problems, July 1966, Paris, France
Amazallag, Giselle, "A Visit with the Artist Chaim Goldberg," Dimensions Magazine, February/March 1997, Boca Raton, Florida
Avidar, Tamar, "Chaim Goldberg Does Not Forget," (Davar Hashavua, 1965, Tel Aviv, Israel
Chir, Myriam, "Chaim Goldberg - Painter and Sculptor," (L'information D'Israel, Feb. 1965, Tel Aviv, Israel
Roseman, Kenneth, "Until the Messiah Comes", Do It Yourself Jewish Adventure Series, ISBN0-8074-0706-2 - Front cover illustration, detail from his painting titled, Marketplace.
Shnayderman, Shemu'el-Leyb, The River Remembers, AAH Publishers, 1970, OCLC Number: 19302464, Translated into English as The River Remembers, (New York : Horizon Press, 1978
Limited Edition Portfolios
"Chaim Goldberg's Shtetl", a portfolio of 10 engravings and intaglio prints (mixed media of etching and some engraving) created earlier as separate editions, published in 1973 to commemorate Chaim Goldberg's One Man Show at the Smithsonian's newly inaugurated Hall of Graphic Arts. Portfolio was published by Shalom Goldberg, the artist's son. It consists of the ten works of art held by a double, folded sheet of same Arches paper, and protective glassine sheet, and two original drawings. The edition size was 10 portfolios with ten impressions each. Each impression was printed by had, by the artist in his New York studio in Queens, using a Rembrandt Etching press. The impressions are done in a variety of ink colors, ranging from Lamp Black, to Cerrulian Blue mixed with Prussian Blue and a variety of Sepia shades. Each edition from which the ten identically numbered sets were pulled, were executed in editions of 200 signed and numbered impressions, thus making the portfolio extremely rare. On top of the rarity by the small set of 10, each portfolio cover sheet includes two original illustrations in pen and ink by Chaim Goldberg.
Included in each portfolio set are the following works:
Book: In Kazimierz the Vistula River spoke to them in Yiddish...: Jewish painters in the art colony of Kazimierz Dolny, by Dr. Waldemar Odorowski (Author and Editor), published by Muzeum Nadwislanskie, Kazimierz Dolny, Poland 2008