Memories of the Shtetl

Sept. 11, 2015-Jan. 10, 2016
Boca Raton Museum of Art

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.


Memories of the Shtetl
Samuel Rothbort, Rye Wagon Going Through Town, 1956. Watercolor on paper, 11 x 14 inches.