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In this program Georgetown University professor and author, Ori Z Soltes, explores Marc Klionsky’s life and work, in part through conversation with his daughter, the scholar and artist, Nadia Klionsky.

Image above: Marc Klionsky, Dizzie Gillespie: The Man and his Trumpet, 1988. Oil on canvas, 52 x 66 inches. National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC.

This exciting program features the paintings of Marc Klionsky (1927–2017). Born in the Soviet Union, Klionsky managed to navigate what has been called a “two-world condition”—creating the particularized Soviet Socialist Realist work that was acceptable to the Stalinist and post-Stalinist State while allowing his soul to reveal itself in work that only a very few trusted viewers might see. As a Jewish artist, in fact, he lived through a “three-world condition,” needing always to negotiate where that part of his identity might or might not express itself in his art.

Marc Klionsky, Russian Mother, 1964. Oil on canvas, 35 x 28 inches.

Marc Klionsky, Golda Meir, 1976. Oil on canvas, 40 x 30 inches.

The artist managed to immigrate—not without difficulty—to New York City in 1974, where his work exploded in an endless array of stylistic directions, developing a substantial career that continued until his death in 2017. Klionsky shaped a mode of self-expression uniquely contoured by his classical Soviet training his perspective of daily life in New York and America. Over the decades he became particularly known for his insightful portraits of world figures who articulated the 20th century, from Golda Meir to Dizzy Gillespie. John Russell, art critic for The New York Times, described him as “a good man and a brave man and one of the most eloquent painters around.” He also simply called Klionsky “one of the best portrait painters around.”

Marc Klionsky, A Letter, 1985. Oil on canvas, 38 x 46 inches. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Sam Wyly, Dallas, TX

Marc Klionsky, An Artist and a Model, 2001. Oil on canvas, 40 x 50 inches. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Gary Milman, New City, NY.

Ori Z. Soltes teaches at Georgetown University across a range of disciplines, from art history and theology to philosophy and political history. He is the former Director and Curator of the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum, and has curated more than 90 exhibitions there and in other venues across the country and overseas. He is also the author of over 280 books, articles, exhibition catalogues, and essays on diverse topics. Among his books are Fixing the World: Jewish American Painters in the Twentieth Century; The Ashen Rainbow: Essays on the Arts and the Holocaust; Our Sacred Signs: How Jewish, Christian and Muslim Art Draw from the Same Source; Tradition and Transformation: Three Millennia of Jewish Art and Architecture; and Between Pasts and Future: A Conceptual History of Israeli Art.

 Marc Klionsky, Waiting for the Train, 1986. Oil on canvas, 66 x 79 inches. Yad Vashem Art Museum, Jerusalem, Israel.

This event is part of the online series “Flight or Fight. stories of artists under repression,” which is organized by The Fritz Ascher Society for Persecuted, Ostracized and Banned Art, New York. Future events and the recordings of past events can be found HERE.

The Fritz Ascher Society is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization. Your donation is fully tax deductible.

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