Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Remembering Terezin Artist Malvina Schalková (born February 18, 1906)

Malvina Schalková, Elderly Deportee, Terezin, 1943, soft pencil 11x16 in.  Ghetto Fighters' House
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene

Remembering Terezin Artist Malvina Schalková (born February 18, 1906)

by Samuel D. Gruber
 
Today is the birthday of Czech artist Malvina Schalek, or Schalková, one of the many artists who resisted ghetto incarceration by making art. She was already an established artist long before the deportation to Terezin. Schalková was among the older Jewish prisoners, and she was certainly an elder among artists.  According to Dr. Catherine Stodolsky, she was born in Prague to a German-speaking Jewish intellectual family active in the Czech national movement. She went to school in Prague, Vrchlabi (Hohenelbe), and then studied art in Munich at the Frauenakademie in Munich (The Women’s Academy), after which she moved to Vienna and continued her art studies with the well-known woman artist Hasek-Rosenthal. She made her living as an artist, working in a studio above the Theater an der Wien, where she had many portrait commissions from Vienna's upper class. Fewer than three dozen works from this period are known to survive.

In July 1938, the Nazi annexation of Austria forced her to flee to stay with her brother, a judge and the head of the district court, in Litoměřice (Leitmoritz). She left her paintings behind but brought her aunt Emma Richter, whose son Oswald, a lawyer for the Socialist Party, was tortured and later murdered in Buchenwald for his political activities. Schalková and her brother were later deported to the Terezin (Theresienstadt) ghetto on Transport W from Prague on February 8, 1942. At Terezin she produced many drawing and watercolors portraying fellow inmates and their life there, or which more than 100 survive. she was transported to Auschwitz Transport Eb, on May 18, 1944, and died there in September 1944.
 

Malvina Schalková, Interior. 1920.

Malvina Schalková. Self-portrait. Before 1942.


Malvina Schalkova. Self-portrait, pencil, 1944. Yad Vashem.
Because of gender and age, she was not part of the group of artist-architects which included Bedrich Fritta, Leo Hass, Otto Unger, and others who worked in the technical department of the Jewish self-administration and thus had free-range through the town, and also access to drawing materials and other art supplies. Schalková spent much of her time in the barracks and connected yards among the women and elderly, and it is this life that she documented in drawings and watercolors for several years until her deportation to Auschwitz and death in 1944. She was one of several women artists who depicted these everyday scenes of women's life, suffering, and survival. These included Gisela Rottonara, who died at Terezin in January 1943; Zdenka Eismannova, who was killed at Auschwitz in 1943; and Ernestina Kleinova; Marie Weinerova; and others whose fates are uncertain but whose works are included in the permanent exhibition of the Terezin Memorial in the former Magdeburg Barracks.   

More than 100 of her drawings and watercolors survived her deportation and death, and were recovered after the liberation of Terezin on May 8, 1945. They comprise one the most comprehensive collections of victim's art from the Terezin, or an ghetto or concentration camp, and are memorable for their artistic quality and their historic value.  Today, most of Schalková artworks are in the art collection of the Ghetto Fighters' House museum at kibbutz Lohamei HaGeta'ot in Israel.
 
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.
Schalková has been a portraitist before the War, and at Terezin she produced a large number of portraits of her fellow inmates and many of which have survived. We do not know who most of these people were, but the survival of their images provides some avenue of memory, even for the anonymous. Her portraits were highly esteemed. She reportedly refused to paint a portrait of a known collaborator in May 1944, and was subsequently deported to Auschwitz where she perished in September 1944. 
 
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.
Malvina Schalková.
Terezin scene.
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.
Malvina> Schalková. Terezin scene.
Malvina Schalková. Terezin scene.


 

2 comments:

SNF said...

You might be interested in seeing a beautiful series by the Israeli artist Ruth Kestenbaum Ben-Dov that interacts with the persona of the artist.
https://ruthkben-dov.com/the-painter-and-the-hassid/

Samuel Gruber said...

SNF - Thank you for this link! I will look at this art closely and learn more about the artist. I look forward in using it in my class next fall, too. Thanks again!

Sam Gruber