b. Eisabetgrad, Ukraine, 1897 - d. Paris, 1934
Issachar Ryback, a 20th-century Jewish artist, was born in a stetl in the Ukraine. In 1917, his father was murdered during a pogrom there. Throughout his life, Ryback was deeply committed to Jewish culture. While still an art student in Kiev, he participated in folklore expeditions along the Dnieper to research traditional Jewish art, including wooden synagogues, gravestone carvings, and decorative ceremonial and home objects. He became convinced that folklore was the origin of and basis for fine arts. In Kiev, Ryback met Alexandra Exter, a painter and stage designer who had close contacts with both the Cubists in Paris and the Futurists in Italy; through her, Ryback learned about the issues of modern art. He believed that his mission in life was to help create an original modern Jewish art and that that could be done only through the integration of traditional Jewish art into the formal elements (color, rhythm, texture) of the avant-garde.
Ryback left Russia in 1921 and moved to Berlin, where he exhibited with the Seccession group under the motto: "Art for the Masses." In 1926, he settled in Paris; there he continued to paint portraits and still lifes and ceramic figures which represented scenes of stetl life. Ryback died unexpectedly on the eve of the opening of a large retrospective exhibition of his work in Paris in 1934. Mané-Katz wrote that "Ryback was a leading personality among Jewish painters and gave prominence to traditional Jewish symbols within the context of modern painting." The best of Ryback's work is on permanent display in a museum dedicated to his art in Bat Yam near Tel Aviv.