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 Frantisek Reichental  (1895 - 1971)

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Lived/Active: New York / Slovakia/Russian Federation      Known for: modernist portrait and figure painting, teaching

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from Auction House Records.
Sabbath in Bratislava
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following information, submitted by Karen Pearse, is from a book published about the artist: Frantisek Reichental Maliar, Grafik, Pedagog by Leo Kohut.

Frantisek Reichentál (a.k.a. Frank/Ferenc, Riechenthal/Reichen-tal) was undoubtedly one on the most influential Eastern European modern artists. His works reflected his difficult life from his poor upbringing, a prisoner of war in Russia, escape from the Nazi's, and finally fleeing from the Communists to start over in the United States.

Reichentál was born in Lehnice (Velky Leg), Slovakia on May 6, 1895. In 1916, he served in the Austro-Hungarian Army, where he was captured by the Russians and sent to prisoner of war camp. In addition to disrupting his studies, the war years took the lives of both his brother and father. He spent the October Revolution in 1917 in captivity.

Despite the war ending in 1918, Reichentál was not allowed to leave Russia. Captured officers were being held at the time by Russia as booty for the release of Hungarian Communists. While Reichentál was not allowed to leave, he was given permission to study. From 1917 to 1919, he taught at art schools in Irkutsz. Between 1920 and 1921, he enrolled at the Petrograd Art Academy and studied under V. V. Belyayev. After Petrograd, Reichentál painted and taught art with Marc Chagall. He had expos is both Moscow and St. Petersburg, with works being purchased by the State.

After returning home, in 1921, his artistic career flourished, with exhibitions in Berlin, Prague, and Paris. In 1922, Reichentál became a member of the Union of Artists in Slovakia, and had an exposition in Prague. He became a professor at the School of Applied Arts in 1933 and married Margaret Fleischmann in 1936. Their daughter, Mary, was born in 1938.

During World War II, Jews were not allowed to work. So Reichentál, his wife, and their young child tried unsuccessfully to emigrate to America. To make ends meet, he colored photographs and did portraits. After the German occupation in 1939, the family was constantly on the run, using fake identifications to escape capture. Finally, in 1945, the Russian army took control from the Germans. Fluent in seven languages, including Russian and German, Reichentál served as a translator for the Russians through the remainder of the war.

While his family survived the war, Reichentál's mother, two sisters, and niece were killed in Auschwitz. His wife's parents and sister were also killed by the Nazis. Given these experiences, Reichenthal's work took on a more powerful tone as he chronicled many of the atrocities of the war. Such works as Arbeit Macht Frei, the Lone Survivor, Gas, and The Arrival document the barbarity of the Nazi holocaust.

Under pressure from renewed anti-Semitism and nationalism and haunted by the memories of the war, Reichentál and his family emigrated to the United States in 1948. In the U.S., Reichentál continued to paint and draw, but while his name was known throughout Europe, in the US, he had to start from the beginning. He exhibited his works in New York, Miami, Chicago, Austria, Germany, Vienna, Dresdon, Paris, Toronto, and Israel, but died before he reached the recognition he enjoyed in Europe.

Despite his death in New York on April 2, 1972, Reichentál's work continues to live on in Museums, private collections, publications and exhibitions throughout the world, a tribute to his enduring works of suffering, passion and creativity.


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