Tova Berlinski, artist who painted the pain of Auschwitz, dies at 106

Artist Tova Berlinksi, born in Oswiecim in 1915 as Gusta Wolf, daughter of a Hasidic rabbi, died Sunday in Jerusalem. She was 106 years old.

Berlinski was known for her stark, desolate landscapes and dark, black flowers, usually dedicated to her parents and siblings who were killed in the Nazi death camp Auschwitz, less than two kilometers from her family home. .

The Bezalel Academy-trained artist was the eldest of six Wolf children and left for Palestine in 1938, shortly after marrying Eliyahu Berlinski, known as Elec.

The Berlinskis arrived in Palestine on an unauthorized immigrant ship, tried to live on a kibbutz, and eventually settled in Jerusalem, where Tova Berlinski studied at Bezalel and became part of the country’s art scene.

She had fond memories of Oswiecim, the town where the Nazis built Auschwitz, the extermination camp where her family members perished.

Much of Berlinski’s work depicts the pain of the Holocaust and the family members she lost to the Nazis, a pain that has never left her, Berlinski told The New York Times in 2017.

A painting by Tova Berliński donated to the Auschwitz museum, untitled. Mixed media on paper, 2000-2005 (Courtesy Auschwitz Museum)

She then exhibited her work in Paris, Amsterdam and London, won the Jerusalem Prize in 1963, and in 2000 was awarded the Mordechai Ish-Shalom Prize for her life’s work and unique contribution to art.

Berlinski later donated one of his paintings to the Auschwitz museum, a work of a single gray flower in a glass vase, reflecting the ashes and dead spirit of the former concentration camp.

Berlinski continued to paint until late in life, which included a recent solo exhibition at a local Jerusalem gallery at the age of 102, featuring several paintings infused with more color than usual.

A more recent painting by Tova Berlinski, part of a solo exhibition at the age of 102, in Jerusalem (Courtesy)

She was quoted in The New York Times as saying color returned to her paintings around her 102nd birthday.

“The color came back to me,” Berlinski said. “Not to my life, but to me. I don’t know why.

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