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Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History
Vilniaus Gaono Žydų Istorijos Muziejus



Published: 2023-03-29
Director of the Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History Dr Simonas Strelcovas
and the Head of Samuel Bak Museum Ieva Šadzevičienė accept the donation
The Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History and Dr Hubert Portz — owner of the Kunsthaus Désirée art gallery in Germany — have been cherishing a long-standing friendship that has already resulted in a number of international exhibitions. Thanks to the patron, the Museum's collection boasts exceptional and valuable art.
Back in 2014, Portz donated to the Museum a unique collection of works by a German expressionist artist Cornelia Gurlitt (1890—1919), who served as a nurse in the hospital of the Army of Kaiser Germany in Vilnius during World War I. Later the Museum’s collection expanded as a result of the patron donating unique contextual works by artists Magnus Zeller and Karl Schmoll von Eisenwerth (and others), including photographs that capture the topical events of their times, as well as collectible valuables and documents. The letter that Hermann von Eichhorn, Generalfeldmarschall of Kaiser Germany, sent in January 1916 by field mail from Łódź serves as a magnificent example of the donated artefacts.
Thanks to Portz, the Museum’s collection of graphic art boasts works by such expressionists as Vilnius-born Lasar Segall (1889—1957) and Paul Gangolf (1879—1936), a painter from Königsberg, that were presented as part of the exhibition ‘Erotica & Expression: Modernists from the Collections of our Patrons’ held in the summer of 2022. The exhibition included a graphic piece by one of the most prominent twentieth-century modernists Marc Chagall (1887-1985) titled The Walk II, which was also donated by Portz.
This year (2023), the Museum received yet another gift containing two graphic works by Chagall: Acrobat with Violin ('L'Acrobat au violon') dating back to 1924 and The Wedding (1922) with a dedication by the painter that reads ‘To Mr Dr Cürl, to remember.’ Dr Hans Cürl (1889—1982) was an art historian, director, head of the Institute for Cultural Research in Berlin. All the donated works of art have certificates of authenticity issued by the German and French galleries that sold them to the Museum’s patron.
In the context of modernist art, Chagall's works stand out for the artist’s characteristic style, dreamy lyrical content full of Litvak melancholy, snippets of life in a shtetl combined with European metropolitan scenes, violinists and circus acts, storylines resembling fairy tales, sensitive scenes of lovers hovering above the daily life in the sky, and ceremonies from Jewish feasts.
The topic of love prevailed in Chagall’s artwork. In his autobiography, the artist confessed that next to his first wife, the great love of his life and muse Bella (Berta Rosenfeld, 1895—1944), he felt ‘extraordinary peace, a state of weightlessness and flight’. He once said: ‘In life, just as on the artist's palette, there is but one single colour that gives meaning to life and art — the colour of love.’
The collection of the Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History contains a portrait of Bella Chagall carved by a German expressionist artist Ludwig Meidner (1884—1966) in 1922, which was Portz’s gift to the Museum. All in all, the Museum boasts 30 works of art, historical documents, photographs, and other artefacts donated to the Museum’s by its patron Dr Hubert Portz.
Text: Ieva Šadzevičienė


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