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After the Pogrom

Maurycy Minkowski (Polish, 1881-1930)

After the Pogrom, c. 1910

  • Oil on canvas
  • 40 7/8 x 60 in. (103.9 x 152.4 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Gift of Lester S. Klein, 1986-80

Not on view

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After the Pogrom

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After the Pogrom

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This painting by Maurycy Minkowski depicts the survivors of a pogrom. In 1881, a wave of pogroms spread across southern Russia. Anti-Jewish violence and terror remained an ever-present threat throughout czarist Russia during the ensuing decades. Jews were expelled from Moscow in 1891, and a bloody massacre in the town of Kishinev in 1903 set off another round of anti-Jewish violence. Pogroms in Russia and other parts of Eastern Europe were perpetrated by local residents but often instigated by police and government officials.

Many Jews responded to these pogroms by immigrating to Western Europe or the United States. The development of railroad lines and steamships made travel to the United States and Western Europe possible. Prospective immigrants could get from their Eastern European towns to New York Harbor in just a couple of weeks. Often, husbands and fathers made the trip first, hoping to gain a foothold in the new country and then send for their families.

In 1905, Minkowski witnessed pogroms in Bialystok and Siedlce, and this experience had a profound impact on his work. In his paintings, he began to depict the displacement, poverty, and persecution of the victims of such violence. Jewish women and their religious traditions also became an important part of his work.

In After the Pogrom, a group of women and children, victims of a pogrom, sit silently amid their belongings. They seem physically and emotionally exhausted. Behind them, other people trudge along the dusty road of the village, many bent under the weight of their possessions. They have been forced to flee their former home, and the viewer encounters them en route to some unknown destination.

As in many of his works, the characters in After the Pogrom reflect a sense of psychological isolation and dislocation. Although they are all suffering the same fate, characters in the painting do not interact with each other. Each seems to be immersed in his or her own thoughts and emotions. Historian Richard Cohen has noted that in Minkowski’s paintings “often the facial expressions of these wandering Jews do not express anger or struggle but a gloominess that is tempered with a resignation to the victimization” (Cohen, Jewish Icons, p. 245).

Sources:

Cohen, Richard I. Jewish Icons: Art and Society in Modern Europe. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998.

Goodman, Susan. The Emergence of Jewish Artists in Nineteenth-Century Europe. New York: The Jewish Museum, 2001.