Brauner, Isaac

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BRAUNER, ISAAC (Wincenty ; 1887–1944), painter, graphic artist, sculptor, and stage designer. Brauner was born in Lodz, Poland, and received a traditional Jewish education. His artistic and musical gifts manifested themselves already at an early age; he attended a private art school in Łodz and took private violin classes. In 1907, he started his education at the Berlin Conservatoire, but had to give up a professional musical career because of a hand injury, deciding to dedicate himself entirely to art. In 1908–11, he studied at the Hochschule fuer die bildende Kuenste in Berlin. At Berlin art exhibitions, Brauner made his first acquaintance with Van Gogh's paintings, became an ardent admirer of his art, and even adopted his name – Wincenty. Another formative influence of this period was the work of the German impressionists, mainly members of "Der blaue Reiter" group whose artistic ideas and plastic techniques Brauner thoroughly adopted. On the eve of World War i, he returned to Łodz. In 1914–15, he showed his work at exhibitions arranged by the local Artistic Society and was praised by critics as one of the most promising young Polish artists. In Łodz, he became close to a group of young Jewish artists who shared national ideas and aspired to achieve an organic synthesis between Jewish tradition and European modernist art. Brauner became one of the most steadfast apologists for these ideas and strove to realize them in his work. As a leading figure of the Jewish artistic movement in Poland, he was a member of almost every Jewish modernist group or association. In 1919, he participated in the exhibition organized by the Artistic Section of the Kultur-Liga in Białystok. During the same period, he was among the initiators and ideologists of the "Yung Yiddish" group in Łodz (1919–21). He also maintained close contact with the "Khalyastre" group, which brought together Yiddish modernist writers, and produced a cover drawing for the group's first anthology (1921). While living in Łodz, he founded, together with Moshe *Broderzon, an Yiddish puppet show "Ḥad Gadya" (1922–23), executing the settings and making puppets for its productions. In the same period, he designed the settings for productions staged by Yiddish drama theaters in Łodz and Gdansk. In 1924, Brauner moved to Warsaw and had his first one-man show, which revealed him as one of the most radical Jewish painters in Poland. Although his painting retained its general figurative style, he experimented radically with form and implemented techniques of coloristic abstraction. Most of the subjects that he treated in his paintings, chasings, wooden sculptures, and typography were scenes of Jewish shtetl life or episodes from Jewish folklore. In the 1930s he continued his theater work. In the late 1930s, he again settled in Łodz. From 1939, when the city was occupied by the Germans, he was confined to the local ghetto, portraying ghetto life in his graphic works and paintings, part of which survived. In July 1944, he was sent to Auschwitz in of one of the last "selection" operations.


Y. Sandel, Umgekomene Yidishe Kinstler in Poiln, vol. 1 (1957), 66–71; J. Malinowski. Grupa "Jung Idysz" i żidowskie środowisko "Nowej Sztuki" w Polsce. 1918–1923 (1987); idem, Malarstwo i rzeźba Żydow Polskich w xix i xx wieku (2000), 154–55, 188–89; C. Shmeruk, "Mojżesz Broderson a teatr w języky jidisz w Łodzi (przychynki do monografii)," in: Łódzkie sceny żydowskie. Studia i materiały (2000), 62, 65–66.

[Hillel Kazovsky (2nd ed.)]

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Brauner, Isaac

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