A Holocaust Survivor Seen Through His Art

This post first appeared on The Arty Semite blog at the Forward.

Kalman Aron (photo by Elisabeth Caren)

Kalman Aron (photo by Elisabeth Caren)

Portrait artist Kalman Aron has captured the essence of hundreds of people on canvas over the course of his long career. But he has allowed only one of those individuals to truly know the complex and tragic forces behind his creative output.

Little did Susan Beilby Magee know that the new immigrant to the U.S. who painted her 6-year-old likeness in 1951 would, five decades later, entrust her with telling his painful Holocaust story.

On April 10, Magee will speak about her book, “Into the Light: The Healing Art of Kalman Aron” at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. The event will also include a discussion with Magee and with Aron’s son, artist David Aron, moderated by Jean Rosensaft, Assistant Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, and Director of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum in New York.

“He decided to throw a veil over his past and made a conscious decision to live a life apart from the survivor community,” noted Rosensaft of the artist. “The trauma of loss was intensified for him because of this self-imposed isolation.”

The Los Angeles-based Aron made his living by painting portraits, many of them of famous personalities in politics and the arts, but he also produced landscapes and other pieces that fewer people were aware of. “He didn’t speak about his Holocaust experience, but it came out in his work,” Rosensaft said. She points out, for instance, that his landscapes are devoid of human touch points, and that each of his many portraits of a living, vibrant child can be seen as a marker for one of the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered in the Holocaust.

Click here to read more and see a slide show of some of Aron’s work.

© 2013 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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