Born 12 August in Vilna, Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania).
Due to a strong wave of antisemitism, his parents take him away from the Polish kindergarten; he enters a Jewish Kindergarten, where he learns Yiddish.
The Jewish poet, painter and musician, Arno Nadel (his mother's uncle) from Berlin, encourages him to devote himself entirely to art.
Vilna comes under Russian and then German occupation. His father, Jonas, is recruited into a work camp; his grandparents and other relations are murdered in the forest of Ponary; mother, Mitzia, and son are imprisoned in the Vilna ghetto; they manage to escape and find refuge in a Benedictine monastery.
The occupation of the monastery by the Germans forces them back into the ghetto.
[The Family, 1974]
At nine years his artistic talent is first recognized during an exhibition of his work in the ghetto of Vilna.
[Self-Portrait, 1942, Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum & Samuel Bak Museum, VIlna, Lithuania]
Shortly before the destruction of the Vilna ghetto he is carried off by the S.S., along with his parents to the H.K.P. camp on the outskirts of Vilna.
Just a few days before the liberation of Vilna by the Russians, his father is shot to death in the camp.
[Abraham Sutzkever, Yiddish poet, and Samuel Bak, 1944]
End of the Second World War; mother and son flee from Vilna through Poland and Germany, they cross the border of the American occupied zone and are sent to the D.P. camp [Displaced Person] in Landsberg.
[Landsberg am Lech from my Window, 1946]
1946 - 1948
First attempts at a general school education by amateur teachers; languages on the curriculum are Polish, Yiddish, Russian, German and Hebrew.
He enrolls in painting lessons at the Blocherer School in Munich.
His mother, Mitzia, marries Nathan Markowski, a survivor from the Dachau concentration camp.
On a tour of the Jewish refugee camps, Ben Gurion visits the exhibition of his drawings in Bad Reichenhall.
The first dated works are published in Vorwerts New York.
1948 - 1956
Immigration to the newly established state of Israel.
Accepted at the Bezalel Art School in Jerusalem and completes the mandatory service in the Israeli army.
1956 - 1959
Set- and costume designs for the Habimah and Ohel Theatres in Tel-Aviv.
He receives a grant from the American-Israel Cultural Foundation; travels to Paris and continues his education at the the École des Beaux Arts under Prof. Jean Souverbie.
Studies stage scenery painting in England and France with a scholarship from the International Theatre Institute.
... While Gat is a sabra, another prize winner for painting, 22-year-old Shmuel Bak was born in Poland and lived through the Nazi holocaust as a child. He began painting while in hiding in a monastery. He was accepted as a student by the Moscow Art School at the age of 10, and at 13 received a prize for study in France from the Joint and the Rothschild Foundation, but both offers were declined by his mother who was set on their coming to Israel. Here he has worked with Peter Frye, designing stage sets, and did the décor for Habimah's "Medea", "Jets", and the projected "Romeo and Juliet", as well as for Ohel's "They Knew What They Wanted.". He was accepted by the Beaux Arts School in Paris as the outstanding candidate - and was given freedom to choose whomever he wanted as teacher. ... [Jerusalem Post from January 21, 1957/19 Shvat 5717 from "Young Talent Gets a Break"]
1959 - 1966
He settles in Rom and the first exhibition of abstract paintings at the Galleria Schneider, Rome, is met with considerable success.
Various international solo exhibitions in the Bezalel National Museum, Jerusalem; Museum of Modern Art, Tel-Aviv, Rome, London, Brussels and participation in international exhbitions of contemporary art (1961 Carnegie International, Pittsburgh).
[B & A & K, 1965]
1966 - 1974
Resettles in Israel, solo exhibition in the Gordon Gallery, Tel Aviv.
The following years solo exhbitions in the Roma Gallery, Chicago; Modern Art Gallery, Jaffa; Pucker/Safrai Gallery, Boston; Bronfman Cultural Center, Montreal; Hadassah "K" Gallery, Tel Aviv.
In 1971 his mother dies, his stepfather in 1972.
Exhibition of his most important paintings in the Jewish Museum, New York; second solo exhibition at Aberbach Fine Art, New York, from 1974 till 1977 he lives in New York.
Work on the film "Autumn of the World - Samuel Bak, a Painter from Israel" (ZDF-Television, Germany).Film report "Pictures of Flight and Destruction" (ARD-Television, Germany).
[Star of David (The Ghetto), 1976]
1977 - 1993
He moves from New York back to Israel from 1977 till 1980; from 1980 till 1984 he lives in Paris and from 1984 up to 1993 in Switzerland.
[Foto courtesy of Daniela Bak, Paris]
1977 - 1979
A two-year "Retrospective" travels through important German museums: Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nürnberg; Kunstmuseum, Düsseldorf; Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn; Kurpfälzisches Museum, Heidelberg.
Further exhibitions in the Amstutz Galerie, Zürich; Vonderbank, Frankfurt; Goldmann, Haifa; Pucker/Safrai, Boston; Museum der Stadt Landau; Kunstmuseum Wiesbaden.
1980 - 2016
Throughout the years numerous exhibitions in major museums, galleries, and universities in Europe, Israel and the United States including retrospectives at Yad Vashem Museum in Jerusalem, and the South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town.
In 1993, he settles in Massachusetts and becomes an American citizen. He has been the subject of numerous articles, scholarly works, and books; most notably a 400-page monograph entitled Between Worlds.
In 2001 he publishes his memoir Painted in Words which has been translated into several languages.
He has been the subject of two documentary films and the recipient of the 2002 German Herkomer Cultural Prize.
Samuel Bak has received honorary doctorate degrees from the University of New Hampshire in Durham, Seton Hill University in Greenburg, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts College of Art in Boston.
Samuel Bak is awarded the Terezín Legacy Award of the Terezín Music Foundation Boston: "Mr Bak's work is dedicated to the artistic expression of the destruction and dehumanization which make up his childhood memories. He speaks about what are deemed to be the unspeakable atrocities of the Holocaust, creating a visual language to remind the world of its most desperate moments... "
Samuel Bak becomes the 15th Honorary Citizen of Vilnius. This name is given for special merits to Lithuania and Vilnius. Other persons, who received this title are: Former President of USA Ronald Reagan, writer Czesław Miłosz, fomer President of Israel Shimon Peres, former President of Lithuania Algirdas Brazauskas, famous conductor Mstislav Rostropovich among others.
The ceremony was held in the Town Hall of Vilnus on Nov. 15, the honor was presented by mayor Remigijus Šimašius.
Read Samuel Bak’s speech under TEXTS/TEXTE, and see his note in the ctiy’s Golden Book.
The Samuel Bak Museum opens as part of the Tolerance Center of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum, November 16. Two floors are dedicated to the art of Samuel Bak, and another room for related educational activities.
The Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Linas Linkevičius, awards the medal „For the Merits to Vilnius and the Nation“ to Mr. Bak.
On the eve of the 100th anniversary of Lithuania’s statehood restoration, February 15, Vilnius-born painter Samuel Bak was awarded with the Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania.
[Study for a Place Where History was Made, 2018]
Opening of the Samuel Bak Gallery and Learning Center, In Loving Memory of Hope Silber Kaplan, at the HMH Holocaust Museum Houston, Texas, on June 15.
The Samuel Bak Gallery and Learning Center serves as a permanent collection of 125 of Bak’s paintings. The Center will encourage to think about the Holocaust and other genocides and then to consider the connections to decision-making today; as Sam Bak put it: "... to educate young people. To reach openminded adults. Since my art speaks to the mind, and also to the heart, it could make a difference".
[Read the artist's opening statements under TEXTS/TEXTE]
WITNESS: A Symposium on Art and Human Rights: In conjunction with the University of Nebraska at Omaha's (UNO) retrospective exhibition, WITNESS: The Art of Samuel Bak co-sponsored by the Sam and Frances Fried Holocaust and Genocide Academy and the Schwalb Center for Israel and Jewish Studies, the Goldstein Center for Human Rights and the Fried Academy convened an interdisciplinary collaboration and study day related to contemporary art and human rights (26 September). Keynote by Gary Phillips, Goldstein lecture featuring the Honourable Richard J. Goldstone.
UNO Art Gallery received an overwhelming response, when its invitation to visit the art exhibition (Sept. 4 – Nov. 14) on a school field trip, while covering transportation costs and providing guided tours with specially trained docents – saw more than 2,000 middle and high school students appreciating this “unique and powerful learning experience which gives witness to the Holocaust, Jewish culture, and human rights. [And] … has strong connections to Nebraska social studies, language arts, world languages, and art standards”. Overall the exhibition welcomed a total of 4.500 people!