Skip Navigation

About the WorkShare

Destruction of the Ghetto, Kiev

Abraham Manievich (American, b. Russia, 1881-1942)

Destruction of the Ghetto, Kiev, 1919

  • Oil on canvas
  • 70 5/8 x 72 1/8 in. (179.4 x 183.2 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Purchase: Gift of Deana Bezark in memory of her husband Leslie Bezark, 1991-30

On view

largeImage

close

Destruction of the Ghetto, Kiev

close

Destruction of the Ghetto, Kiev

close

Listen

Destruction of the Ghetto, Kiev by Abraham Manievich represents both a personal and public response to the pogroms that raged in parts of Europe well into the 20th century. The painting depicts the artist’s apocalyptic vision of devastation in the Jewish quarter of Kiev, Ukraine. Manievich painted in the Russian cubo-futurist style, which combine bold colors and lines with cubism’s fragmentation of forms and the dynamic movement characteristic of Italian futurism. The jumble of houses, painted with dark colors and angular forms, creates an ominous, threatening environment. One of the centrally located buildings is a typical Eastern European double-roofed synagogue of the type once found in Lithuania, Poland, Belarus, and Ukraine.

There is a great deal of ambiguity in the scene. Where are the people? In hiding? Have they died or have they escaped to the West? The goat in the foreground is the only living thing visible. Perhaps he is picking over the scraps of the abandoned town. Maybe he represents the sole witness to the horrifying pogrom. Or does he symbolize a sacrifice—the "scapegoat" of ancient times? Even the brighter colors in the distant background are ambiguous. Do they depict a fire raging across the landscape or the dawning of a new, better day?

Abraham Manievich was born in 1881 in Mstislavl, Belorussia. He studied at the Imperial Art School in Kiev (1903–1905) and then at the Academy in Munich (1905–1907). Manievich is known primarily as a landscape painter. His subjects include the small wooden houses of the Ukrainian and Lithuanian countryside, as well as street scenes of Moscow and Kiev. He is especially known for his vigorous brushwork and expressive use of color.

Manievich traveled through Europe and settled for a few years in Moscow before returning to Kiev in 1917 to become a professor at the Ukraine Academy of Arts. Rising antisemitism led him to incorporate Jewish themes increasingly into his work. In 1919, during the civil war in the Ukraine, Manievich’s son was killed in a pogrom; Manievich responded to this tragedy with the painting Destruction of the Ghetto, Kiev. Three years later, Manievich immigrated to New York, where he continued his successful painting career. He died in the Bronx in 1942.