Samuel Bak Exhibit at Pucker Gallery

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Date(s) - 05/23/2023
12:00 am

Pucker Gallery


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240 Newbury Street, 3rd floor

Boston, MA 02116


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April 2023, Volume 8


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15 April through 4 June 2023

Public Opening: Saturday, 29 April 2023, 3-6PM

The artist will be present.

Pears are a recurring device in Bak’s visual vocabulary, and continue to serve as prophetic symbols of hope, belonging, and meaning amidst human suffering. He once wrote that “this humble image (a pear) of man’s vulnerability became a metaphor for all the ineffaceable tragedy and sadness of the human condition. There was something stoic about pears’ acceptance of their destiny, the way they obediently accepted the roles I gave them in my invented dramas. They were the receptacles of fate, perhaps the victims of life’s random brutality—but never the perpetrators.”

In this exhibition, Bak presents a body of work entirely dedicated to the pear, giving it various meanings and roles within his compositions.

A corresponding Discussion Panel and musical performance will be held on 30 April.

Samuel Bak

The Way We Are, 2022

Oil on canvas

signed “BAK” lower right corner

40 x 30″ | BK2831

View the Exhibition Catalogue!

With a generous donation of 512 artworks from the artist, Samuel Bak Museum: The Learning Center at the University of Nebraska Omaha officially opened its Phase One space in February 2023.

Bak’s connection with the university began when he was invited by Dr. Mark Celinscak, Louis and Frances Blumkin Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, to deliver a lecture. This soon led to an exhibition of his art on campus which was met with considerable interest and discussion, setting the groundwork for an eventual freestanding museum.

Executive Director Hillary Nather-Detisch, MPA, CFRE opened the museum to the public on 4 February, 2023, with the inaugural exhibition In the Beginning: The Artist Samuel Bak, open until mid-July, 2023. Nather-Detisch’s intention for the museum is to “allow people to engage in a safe discussion around social justice, human rights, and holocaust and genocide studies, as well as art and artistic expression.”

Read Gallery Director Bernard Pucker’s thoughts in the March Director’s Note.

Click here to read about the opening of Phase One from the perspective of Carl Herbert, friend and associate of Pucker Gallery.

Samuel Bak

Ruakh, 2007

Oil on canvas, signed “BAK ’07” lower left

18 x 24” | BK1189 | UNO454

Samuel Bak

Elements of Time, 1986

Oil on linen, signed “BAK” lower left

25.5 x 32″ | SO2 | UNO 374

Click here to visit the Samuel Bak Museum: The Learning Center


Matthew Whiman, editor at the Museum of Fine Arts, recently published an essay on The Ghetto for the MFA’s Art For this Moment series.

Whiman cites similarities between The Ghetto and the Eldridge Street Synagogue in New York, painting a vivid picture of the Jewish diaspora. He also evokes the memory and poetry of Avrom Sutzkever, who met a young Bak and wrote that “this boy harbored something much stronger than those who set out to exterminate our people.”

While The Ghetto is no longer on view in the rotunda, it can still be accessed through the museum’s online collection.

Click here to read Whiman’s essay, as well as other essays written by MFA staff about works in the museum collection.

Samuel Bak

The Ghetto, 1976

Oil on linen

64 x 48″ | SJ414


Continuing Questions: Recent Art of Samuel Bak

Opening: 10 August 2023

In honor of Samuel Bak’s 90th birthday this year, the Holocaust Museum Houston will exhibit Continuing Questions: Recent Art of Samuel Bak. The exhibition will feature artworks from Icons of AloneFiguring Out, and HOPE.

More details to follow!

Samuel Bak

Smoke, 2022

Oil on canvas

signed “BAK 2022” lower left corner

63 x 55.25″ | BK2776

News from the Samuel Bak Museum: The Learning Center at the University of Nebraska Omaha

Hillary Nather-Detisch and the Samuel Bak Museum: The Learning Center staff

With the inaugural exhibition In the Beginning is now underway, we would like to highlight some developments at the museum. The exhibition has been extended to mid-July, so that it will coincide with the Omaha Summer Arts Festival.

The museum is now fully staffed, with two new Assistant Gallery Managers, Sadie Bartle (recent ASU Graduate—BFA) and Roxanna Corral (recent UNO Graduate—BFA), and six student workers with majors ranging from Fine Art to Engineering, Computer Science, and Business (an international MBA student). They are learning how to give tours and have assisted in welcoming over 1,000 visitors since the February opening.

The regular programming now includes three recurring events:

  • Bak Talks – 10-minute discussions on Samuel Bak’s life from a historical and Holocaust perspective.
  • Meet a Bak – a monthly “lunch and learn” with Alexandra Cardon bringing an artwork out of the collection to view and discuss.
  • Curator Talks – monthly Thursday evening talks with Alexandra Cardon, or a featured guest speaker, focusing on different themes within the collection.

Numerous donor events, museum partners, community groups, and classes are scheduled to convene in the space in the coming months, all of whom have been strategically selected to support the mission and vision of the Museum and University. The space is completely booked until the end of the exhibition, sometimes with two events scheduled per day!

If you are interested in learning more about the museum, click here. Please direct all questions to or the Office of Strategic Marketing and Communications at UNO at

Click Here to See All Upcoming Events

Hillary Nather-Detisch

Executive Director

Alexandra Cardon

Gallery Manager and Assistant Curator

Beth Stinson

Administrative Associate

Jason Jones

Building Services Manager


The Art of Samuel Bak: A Conversation on Art and Memory

As part of the 16th De La Salle University, Manila, Arts Congress with the theme, Engagement: Art, Memory, History, this special event explored how art serves as an expression of memory or a repository of a people’s experiences.

In this conversation, Samuel Bak, Pucker Gallery Director Bernard Pucker, and Professor and Historian Dr. Mark Celinscak discussed how art nurtures public memory or questions it, and how it brings attention to otherwise silenced voices. By revealing alternate historical narratives, the heritage and values of a people, of a nation, and of the world become truer and more distinctive.

Click here to read the corresponding essay Mystery, Mythos, and the Pear in the Art of Samuel Bak by Leni dlR. Garcia, MA, PhD of De La Salle University, Manila.

Samuel Bak Museum: The Learning Center

Learn more about the museum with an in-depth exploration of the installation process of In the Beginning, footage of the opening, and interviews with Executive Director Hillary Nather-Detisch, Samuel Bak, UNO chancellor Dr. Joanne Li, and Bernard Pucker.

WebinART: Sanctified Symbol

A conversation with Pucker Gallery artist Samuel Bak, Professor of English Emeritus at Simmons University and renowned scholar of the Holocaust and the art of Samuel Bak, Dr. Lawrence Langer, and Gallery Director Bernard Pucker. This exchange focused on specific works from the new exhibition with the rea-PEAR-ance of Bak’s ubiquitous image.

“Bak a Day”

Each day, Bernard Pucker or a staff member writes a reflection on an artwork by Samuel Bak, which is then sent out to a small group of Bak appreciators. If you would like to join this special tradition, please reach out to


When the Rainbow Breaks: H•O•P•E in the Art of Samuel Bak

Essay by Henry F. Knight

Four simple letters—H, O, P, E—belie the significance and complexity of the word they spell. For Bak, the work of building hope, or believing in the hope that others offer, requires engaging with the discarded and broken pieces of a previously trusted world now irrevocably shattered by the Holocaust. In landscapes, still lifes, and figural works, Bak gathers the layered elements of hope for us to contemplate and remind us that they hold within and among them a promise for rebuilding and renewal. At best, hope is a wager of trust embodied in the venture of going forth.

In his essay When the Rainbow Breaks, Henry F. Knight, the former Director of the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Keene State College guides us through the multivalent forms of hope in Bak’s work, asks us to question what we see and look beyond the visible, endeavors to define what hope after the Holocaust looks like, and teaches us that the process of creation after destruction represented by Bak’s work is itself the ultimate act of hope.

Published by Pucker Art Publications, Boston, MA, 2022

Distributed by Syracuse University Press

Hardcover book with dust jacket

136 pages with 130 color images

ISBN: 978-1-879985-42-1

The first 50 hardcover books will be signed by the artist!

Click here to buy a copy!

An Unimaginable Partnership: The Art of Samuel Bak and the Writings of Lawrence L. Langer

In 1995, as Samuel Bak was working on a suite of twenty large paintings eventually entitled Landscapes of Jewish Experience, Pucker Gallery reached out to scholar Lawrence L. Langer, who had recently edited Art from the Ashes: A Holocaust Anthology, to contribute to the monograph. His willingness to undertake this effort would open a vast experience for both Langer and Bak. For nearly thirty years, they have participated in a creative dance of images and ideas that has expanded both of their visions. Langer has written with great insight and precision about each new body of Bak’s art. Bak has in turn been energized by his exchanges with Langer. Together they have given each of us an opportunity—to address the fundamental questions of moral choice and our responsibility to unite and not divide, and to address the past and behave in a more humane and respectful manner toward one another in the present and future. An Unimaginable Partnership gathers these words and images in an impressive and extensive volume.

Click here to buy a digital copy!
Published by Pucker Art Publications, Boston, MA, 2022

Distributed by Syracuse University Press

Hardcover book with dust jacket

500 pages with 500 color images

ISBN: 978-1-879985-44-5

The first 50 hardcover books will be signed by the artist and Lawrence Langer!

Click here to buy a copy!



Pucker Gallery will publish a biography on the life and art of Samuel Bak, written by art historian Ute Ben Yosef and based upon extensive interviews with the artist. The book begins in Bak’s early years as a child prodigy in Vilna, and follows his survival of the Vilna Ghetto, the HKP 562 Labor Camp, and life in hiding in a Benedictine convent. It discusses his emergence in Israel and Paris as one of the great conceptual artists of our time whose oeuvre bears witness to his experiences as a child survivor. It reviews the private art lessons he received, his studies in Jerusalem with trailblazers of the European avant-garde, and his time in Paris where he absorbed the second-generation abstract movement triggered by the horrors of World War II.

Ute Ben Yosef

Art Historian

The book follows Bak through the 1960s in Rome when his abstract paintings brought him international recognition and a tectonic shift in his conceptual idiom occurred. In it, he finds the visual means to capture the icons of Jewish history in the language of the Old Masters. The book explores the resonance of his art in Israel, Europe, and America, how Bak captures a painful past in a pictorial language of detached irony, and how he creates myths from stereotypes. Finally, the book follows Bak to Boston by way of Switzerland with his wife, Josée, where he meets Bernie and Sue Pucker and develops a friendship and gallery relationship that forever alters his life.

The book will be richly illustrated with works dating from the 1940s, some rarely before seen, which will greatly enhance the understanding of his art.


Public Opening: Sanctified Symbol

Saturday, 29 April, 3-6PM

At Pucker Gallery

The artist will be present.

Samuel Bak

Per Chance, 1994

Paint on paper

signed “BAK 94” lower right corner

6.5 x 10″ | BK2837

Discussion Panel: Sanctified Symbol

Sunday, 30 April, 2-4PM

At Pucker Gallery

Please join us for a Discussion Panel on Samuel Bak’s new body of work from his exhibition Sanctified Symbol: Pears in the Art of Samuel Bak. We will host an in-person panel including:

  • Dr. Gary A. Philips, Professor of Religion Emeritus, Edgar H. Evans Chair in Religion at Wabash College
  • Samuel Bak
  • Bernard Pucker, Gallery Director

The Discussion Panel will also feature a musical performance of composer Ralf Yusuf Gawlick’s At the still point of the turning world, which will be performed by cellist Rafael Popper-Keizer.

For more information on Bak and the upcoming exhibition, please click here. To register for this event, please email

View the Exhibition Catalogue!

Samuel Bak turns 90!

We will be celebrating Samuel Bak and his art every day of his 90th year!

Samuel Bak

Seascape with Celebration, 2017

Oil on canvas, signed “BAK 17” lower right

20 x 16″ | BK2500

Please visit to view complete exhibition catalogues, shop artwork,

read artist biographies, and learn about our educational components.

All images © 1967 – 2022 Pucker Gallery. All Rights Reserved.

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