Marc Klionsky, a Soviet-Jewish émigré to New York who gained worldwide prominence painting portraits of such eminent figures as Golda Meir and Elie Wiesel, has died.
Klionsky, who died last month at 90, became the youngest artist to have his paintings exhibited in the renowned Tretiakov Gallery in Moscow.
His works have been exhibited around the world, including throughout Europe and in Israel, China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Along with Meir, the late Israeli prime minister, and Wiesel, the late Nobel laureate, Klionsky painted portraits of musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and B.B. King, and industry titans such as Dr. Armand Hammer, among many others.
Klionsky, a Russia native who was the son of a master printer, trained in Russia’s best art schools and began working as an artist in his early teens. His family escaped the Holocaust when his father convinced 200 people from their neighborhood to travel to Kazan in eastern Russia, away from the advancing Nazi army.
He later escaped in 1974 with his family from Russia, due to anti-Semitism and lack of artistic freedom, first to Rome and then to New York.
In the forward to a book on Klionsky’s work, Wiesel, for whom Klionsly sculpted his Nobel Prize medal, wrote: “A painter on the theme of return or of memory, or both, Marc Klionsky offers us multiple faces that have haunted his past and ours. One has only to see them to understand his journey from Leningrad to Manhattan. One has only to study them to recall the events which they incarnate. For Marc Klionsky, the mystery of endurance as well as transformation is in the human face.”
“What is fear in the time of the Gulag if it is not the countenance of an old man who looks sullen and undeceived? What is the hopeless sorrow of Jewish victims during the Holocaust if it is not the face of an ageless and nameless man or woman, whose horizon is crowded with phantoms visible to him or her alone?”
Klionsky is survived by his wife of 58 years, Irina; two daughters; four grandchildren; and a sister.