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Yehuda Bacon / Returns

Czech Centre Prague invites you to see the first Czech retrospective exhibition of an important Israeli painter with roots in Czechoslovakia. Open September 9 - 30, 2011. FREE ENTRY. Czech Centre Prague, Rytirska 31, Prague 1.

Jiri (Yehuda) Bacon was born on July 28, 1929 in Moravska Ostrava. Despite belonging to the German-speaking upper middle class, the family maintained its Jewish religious traditions and did not assimilate. His entire family was deported to Theresienstadt in September 1942. There, he met a number of very talented children and his drawings caught the attention of several of the well-known artists in the ghetto, such as Karel Fleischmann (1897-1944), Bedrich Fritta (1906-1944), Leo Hass (1901-1983), Petr Kien (1919-1944) and Otto Ungar (1901-1945).  The Bakons were selected for deportation to Auschwitz–Birkenau in 1943. A few days after his arrival in Yehuda’s left arm was tattooed with the number 168194. The number would eventually appear in many of his art works as a kind of memento mori, and he often placed it alongside his name as a signature. 

After the war, Yehuda was placed in the rehabilitation home in the Stirin castle that was established by Premysl Piter(1895-1976), an extraordinarily devoted social worker and humanist. In March 1946, Yehuda left  for Palestine. He was accepted to the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem in September 1946 where he studied under the supervision of the avant-garde painters Mordechai Ardon (1896 - 1992), Isidor Aschheim (1891 - 1968) and Jakob Steinhardt (1887 – 1968). At that time he also met important Czech-German cultural and social figures, such as the writers Max Brod (1884 - 1968) and Felix Welsch (1884 – 1964) and intellectuals Samuel Hugo Bergman (1883 -1975), Martin Buber (1878 - 1965) and Gershom Scholem (1897 – 1982).

Another important milestone in Bacon’s life was the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961, as he was asked to appear as a key witness. Apart from his oral testimony, he was able to produce precise documentary drawings, which were used as evidence.  During 1963-64, he was called on once again to testify in the so-called “Auschwitz Trial” of Nazi criminals that took place in Frankfurt am Main.

In February 1995, Bacon returned to his native land for the first time since leaving in 1946. There, he met with survivors from the group of the 89 boys who were with him in Auschwitz and other camps beforehand and afterwards. They gathered in Prague and went from there to Theresienstadt and then to Birkenau.  For his eightieth birthday in 2009, Yehuda’s friends and admirers in Germany organized an exhibition of his work at the Museum am Dom in Wurzburg, Germany. There, the Yehuda Bacon Foundation was established at the Kunstsammlung der Diozese Wurzburg. Yehuda Bacon is also very active in the German-Jewish and Christian-Jewish dialogue.

Yehuda Bacon works in major collections worldwide (selective selection): Israel Museum (Jerusalem, Israel), Yad Vashem Museum (Jerusalem, Israel), Ein Harod Museum (Israel), Museum of Modern Art (Haifa, Israel), British Museum (London, United Kingdom), Victoria and Albert Museum (London, United Kingdom), Magnes Museum (Berkeley, USA), Library of Congress (Washington, USA), Museum am Dom (Würzburg, Germany)

The exhibition concept was prepared by Lena Arava Novotná, the curator of the exhibition is Anna Pravdová.

The exhibition has been prepared in cooperation with the Embassy of Israel in Prague, Mr. Jens Oertel, and Czech Centre Tel Aviv. We would like to thank Czech-German Fund for the Future, European Shoah Legacy Institute, U Zeleného hroznu hotel and winery České vinařství Chrámce for their support.