Bayefsky, Aba

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BAYEFSKY, ABA (1923–2001), Canadian artist and teacher. Bayefsky was born in Toronto, where he was first encouraged to paint by Canadian Group of Seven artist Arthur Lismer. In 1942 Bayefsky joined the Royal Canadian Air Force and became an official war artist in 1944. In May 1945 he was among the first to enter the newly liberated *Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. "For the first time," wrote Bayefsky," I had become aware of man's monstrous capacity for evil. It was the determining factor in everything I have done since." His camp images are part of the art collection of the Canadian War Museum. After the war Bayefsky returned to Europe to study at the Académie Julian in Paris and continued to paint and draw images based on the lives of Jewish displaced persons.

Back in Toronto, Bayefsky's drawings, paintings, water-colors, murals, and publications celebrated people and their everyday lives. Well traveled, he created works reflecting the diversity of human experience from the marketplaces of India to the traditional tattoo artists of Japan. Yet it was his Jewish heritage, his anger at what he witnessed during the Holocaust and at the resurgence of antisemitism during his later years that engendered Bayefsky's most vibrant work. "Tales from the Talmud" illustrated 18 talmudic folk tales and parables; large murals depicted scenes from Jewish history's joys and sorrows; "Epilogue," his last works, encompass 50 years of reflection on the Holocaust. "Epilogue" was donated to Yad Vashem in 1999.

Bayefsky exhibited in more than 45 one-man exhibitions and taught Fine Art at the Ontario College of Art from 1957 to 1988. He was also president of the Canadian Group of Painters and the Canadian Society of Graphic Art, a member of the Royal Canadian Academy, and appointed to the Order of Canada, the highest honor Canada bestows upon a citizen.


A. Bayefsky, Aba Bayefsky in Kensington Market (1991).

[Paula Draper (2nd ed.)]