Artist Tova Berlinksi, born in Oswiecim in 1915 as Gusta Wolf, the daughter of a Hasidic rabbi, died Sunday in Jerusalem. She was 106.
Berlinski was known for her stark, desolate landscapes and dark, black flowers, usually dedicated to her parents and siblings who were killed in the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, less than two kilometers from her family home.
The Bezalel Academy-educated artist was the eldest of the six Wolf children, and left for Palestine in 1938, shortly after she married Eliyahu Berlinski, known as Elec.
The Berlinskis arrived in Palestine on a ship of unauthorized immigrants, tried living in a kibbutz and eventually settled in Jerusalem, where Tova Berlinski studied at Bezalel and became part of the country’s artistic scene.
She had good memories of Oswiecim, the town where the Nazis built Auschwitz, the extermination camp where her family members perished.
Much of Berlinski’s work portrayed the pain of the Holocaust and the family members she lost to the Nazis, a pain that never left her, Berlinski told The New York Times in 2017.
She went on to show her work in Paris, Amsterdam and London, won the Jerusalem Prize in 1963 and in 2000 was awarded the Mordekhai Ish-Shalom prize for her life’s work and unique contribution to art.
Berlinski later donated one of her paintings to the Auschwitz museum, a work portraying a single gray flower in a glass vase, reflecting the ash and dead spirit of the former concentration camp.
Berlinski continued painting until late in life, which included a recent solo exhibition at a local Jerusalem gallery when she was 102, featuring several paintings imbued with more color than usual.
She was quoted in The New York Times as saying that color returned to her paintings around her 102nd birthday.
“The color returned to me,” Berlinski said. “Not to my life, but to me. I don’t know why.”