To Paint is to Live: The Artwork of Erich Lichtblau-Leskly

to paint is to live

February 19 – May 30, 2021

Explore the life and work of Erich Lichtblau-Leskly, a Czech Jewish artist who used art and satire as tools of adaptation and resistance while imprisoned in Theresienstadt, a ghetto-concentration camp. Imprisoned and forced into slave labor by the Nazis, Erich clandestinely used art to express himself, document life around him, and make sense of his unthinkable situation.

About the Exhibit

To Paint is to Live: The Artwork of Erich Lichtblau-Leskly highlights the life and works of Erich Lichtblau-Leskly, a Czech Jewish painter from Moravia whose peaceful life with his wife Elsa and promising career as a commercial designer were shattered following the Nazi partition and subsequent invasion of Czechoslovakia. Following the invasion, they moved to Prague and were eventually deported to Theresienstadt.

Though imprisoned and forced into slave labor, Leskly continued to use art to express himself, document life around him, and make sense of the horrid situation. His satiric, cartoonish representations of daily life in Theresienstadt juxtapose shocking scenes of banal brutality with a light, ironic style, exposing the absurdity and audacity of his and other’s experience while remaining jarringly human.

Fearing for his life after others in the camp were deported, Erich cut most of his artwork into pieces. His wife Elsa hid them underneath the floorboards of her barracks and they miraculously survived. Erich used these fragments to recreate bigger, brighter, more fleshed-out versions with writings and captions to give further insight into what he was attempting to convey.

This exhibit is on loan from Holocaust Museum LA.

Virtual Tour of Yad Vashem’s Holocaust Art Collection
Wednesday, February 10, 12:00 PM
With more than 12,000 works, the Yad Vashem Art Collection is the most comprehensive collection of Holocaust art in the world. Explore art produced during the Holocaust, discover the incredible stories of persecuted artists who risked their lives in order to leave a trace for posterity. How were these works created and how did they survive? Survey a selection of highlights from the Yad Vashem Art Collection with Eliad Moreh-Rosenberg, Curator & Art Department Director, Museums Division of Yad Vashem.

Virtual Opening Preview of To Paint is to Live 
Thursday, February 18, 7:00 PM
Join JMM in exploring Erich Lichtblau-Leskly’s life, work and legacy with his daughter, Mira Oren, through a virtual presentation from her home in London and celebrate the culture of Leskly’s native Czechoslovakia with a musical performance highlighting the country’s rich classical composing traditions. Be the first to experience the exhibit with a special tour.

How to Talk to Your Kids About the Holocaust
Thursday, March 4, 7:00 PM
Join Simone Schweber, Goodman Chair of Education and Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in this interactive workshop where we’ll combine pair-and-share, small-group work and lecture to figure out how to talk to young kids about the Holocaust and other difficult topics.

Ghetto Chronicles with Historian Sam Kassow
Wednesday, March 17, 7:00 PM
Sam Kassow, historian and author of ‘Who Will Write Our History? Rediscovering a Hidden Archive From the Warsaw Ghetto,’ will share his expertise about ghettos during World War II. The talk will center on the Lodz Ghetto, the centerpiece of JMM’s 2020 special exhibit ‘Girl in the Diary: Searching for Rywka from the Łódź Ghetto,’ but will provide comparisons to Theresienstadt, the centerpiece of the current special exhibit, ‘To Paint is to Live: The Artwork of Erich Lichtblau-Leskly.’

Cartoons as Commentary: Phil Hands Explores the Work of Erich Lichtblau-Leskly
Tuesday, March 23, 7:00 PM
Phil Hands, editorial cartoonist for the Wisconsin State Journal will discuss political cartooning and how Leskly’s drawings fit into the field. Hands will demonstrate how he draws easily identifiable political figures and crafts well-chosen text to create deeper meaning for the reader.

Virtual Tour of Tucson’s Jewish History Museum & Holocaust History Center
Tuesday, April 6, 12:00 PM
‘ASYLUM/ASILO’ weaves a dialogue from the personal histories of individuals who have fled horrific situations in their home countries only to face an asylum system on the US-Mexico border turned into chaos by the government’s own making. Paired with ‘CLAMOR IN THE DESERT / CLAMOR EN EL DESIERTO,’ a Sukkah installation by Argentina-based artist Mirta Kupferminc.

LOMED Book Club – Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents 
Thursday, April 8, 7:00 PM
In ‘Caste,’ the Pulitzer Prize-winning, bestselling author examines the unspoken caste system that has shaped America and shows how our lives today are still defined by a hierarchy of human divisions. Join us for a discussion of ‘Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents’ by Isabel Wilkerson.

A Virtual Tapestry Tour with Ted Comet
Tuesday, April 27, 12:00 PM
Ted Comet explores the five larger-than-life tapestries woven by his late wife Shoshana as she reflected on her experience during the Holocaust. The tapestries show the horrors she and others suffered during those years, something she kept hidden inside until she found art as an outlet to tell her story. Each tapestry is a testament to the power of the mind to turn trauma into creativity and healing energy.

Virtual Tour of the Buenos Aires AMIA
Tuesday, May 4, 12:00 PM
The hub of Jewish life in Argentina is the AMIA – Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina in Buenos Aires. Join a virtual tour highlighting the physical and historical significance of this Jewish  community Center and content from the exhibit, Sites to Remember and Honor, exploring the monuments and works of art dedicated to victims of the Holocaust, the 1992 bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, and the 1994 bombing of the AMIA.

Virtual Book Talk – Hollywood Hates Hitler with Chris Yogerst
Thursday, May 13, 12:00 PM
In September 1941, a handful of isolationist senators set out to tarnish Hollywood for warmongering, introducing a resolution aimed to limit both radio and film that “extensively used for propaganda purposes designed to influence the public mind in the direction of participation in the European War.” The immigrant moguls in Hollywood were acutely aware of the conditions in Europe. After Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass), the gloves came off and a number of studios released films later targeted by the Senate. Join author of ‘Hollywood Hates Hitler! Jew-Baiting, Anti-Nazism, and the Senate Investigation into Warmongering in Motion Pictures,’ Chris Yogerst, as he examines the years leading up to and through the Senate Investigation into Motion Picture War Propaganda, detailing the isolationist senators’ relationship with the America First movement.

Fashion Metropolis Berlin with Uwe Westphal
Sunday, May 16, 4:00 PM
Join author of ‘Fashion Metropolis Berlin,’ Uwe Westphal, as he brings to life Berlin’s fashionable past describing the rise and destruction of the Jewish fashion industry from 1836 – 1939.

Bader Philanthropies, Harri Hoffmann Family Foundation, Isabel Bader, Anonymous Foundation*, Suzy B. Ettinger*, Herb Kohl Charities, Gerald & Louise Stein Family*, Esther & Fredric Ancel, Sharon & Richard Canter, Evan and Marion Helfaer Foundation, Lloyd & Sheri Levin, Karen E & Leonard L Loeb*, Nathan and Esther Pelz Holocaust Education Resource Center, Betsy Rosenblum & Richard Buchband, Jody & Jeff Steren*, The Stahl Center for Jewish Studies at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

*Donor Advised Fund of the Milwaukee Jewish Community Foundation

Media Sponsor: Wisconsin Public Radio

ABOUT JEWISH MUSEUM MILWAUKEE: The Jewish Museum Milwaukee is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history of the Jewish people in southeastern Wisconsin and celebrating the continuum of Jewish heritage and culture. The history of American Jews is rooted in thousands of years of searching for freedom and equality. We are committed to sharing this story and the life lessons it brings with it, so that we may enhance the public’s awareness and appreciation of Jewish life and culture. We are committed to building bridges between diverse groups through shared history and to exploring contemporary issues through the lens of Jewish history, culture and values.

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