Memories of the Shtetl
In the late 1930s, Samuel Rothbort (1882 – 1971) began creating “memory paintings” of his native Walkovisk, a small village in Czarist Russia. Eventually numbering over five hundred, Rothbort’s paintings have become lauded as a cultural resource depicting life in a predominantly Jewish village, commonly known as a Shtetl. Their nostalgic sense of wonder and joyous colors have challenged many observers’ notions of prewar Eastern European Jewish life.
Memories of the Shtetl features a selection of oil and watercolor paintings by Rothbort. Artistically gifted and largely self-taught, Rothbort’s work depicts a reverence for nature and everyday life in a Shtetle. His memory paintings were the subject of a 1961 documentary film The Ghetto Pillow (later renamed Memories of the Shtetle) by Harriet Semegram and provided inspiration for Jerome Robbins’ staging of the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof.