Samuel Bak presented by the Mayor of the capital with the regalia of the Honorary Citizen of Vilnius

22/11/2017

The world-renown Jewish artist Samuel Bak has officially become the 15th Honorary Citizen of Vilnius in the ceremony of the presentation of the regalia by the Mayor of the capital Remigijus Šimašius, which has taken place in the Town Hall. The artist, who has come specifically for this purpose from the United States, said he was pleased with this recognition by his native Vilnius. The capital will soon see the opening of a museum named after Samual Bak.

“When I see Samuel Bak’s paintings, no questions arise as to the reason or purpose of all this. To my mind, they are here to make us better but also to remind us of the lurking evil, and that it is entirely up to us whether we will let it prevail. The City Council had no doubts whatsoever with regard to awarding the Honorary Citizenship on the artist. Samuel Bak’s life story is also the story of Vilnius: a man that had to see the changeover of the totalitarian regimes and flee to the free world torn off from his native city related with painful memories but, nevertheless, never forgotten, and which continued to live in the paintings and we love to see it as it is, with his past and future”, said Remigijus Šimašius, Mayor of the City while presenting the regalia of the Honorary Citizen of Vilnius to Samuel Bak.

The Honorary Citizenship was awarded to Samuel Bak on April 25 this year by the decision of the Vilnius City Council.

“I have been very lucky in my life: my art is valued, and thanks to it I can live freely, my pictures count a number of prizes, awards, but I have to admit that I often felt lonely when taking these distinctions. This evening, everything is different: next to me is my father, my grandparents, aunts, uncles and many faceless old Jewish people in Vilnius whose lives were cut short.  All of them are here today proud of their boy and pleased with this event. It is for them that I donate a substantial collection to Lithuania, and it is for their memory that I dedicate the Bak Museum. I am extremely grateful to all those who have made this happen – it is my dream that has come true”, said Samuel Bak.

The Samuel Bak Museum in Vilnius (10/2, Naugarduko St.) has more than half a hundred of the works by the famous Litvak painter, which will open for display for visitors as of 20 November. One more exposition space and an educational centre will soon be put to operation.
Back in April, in response to the message about the decision of the Vilnius City Council to award him the title of an Honorary Citizen, the artist wrote to the people of Vilnius: “I take this honour with great humbleness. Since the day of my birth, my beloved Vilnius has given me the happiest and most tragic memories in my life. They have enriched me artistically and gave a special meaning for my survival.”

Having won the worldwide acclaim and having become a “citizen of the world”, Samuel Bak has never forgotten the native Vilnius, the experiences and the birth of the creative quest.

“I was born 84 years ago in this beautiful city, in an extraordinary family. One rainy day we were sent with our mother to the ghetto, and when we left it, it was only 5 per cent of all the ghetto survivors. We, Litvaks, have always felt special. I soon came to realise that Vilnius had grown vigorously in my blood, I was looking for it wherever I went. My each visit to Vilnius has been special, but nothing can match the emotions that I feel now”, said Samuel Bak.

The artist was born on 12 August 1933 in Vilnius. At the age of nine, he found himself, together with his parents, at the Vilnius Ghetto, where he had his first exhibition. From 1945, Samuel Bak stayed in a displaced persons camp in Germany, where he continued to paint. In 1948, he emigrated to Israel, later went to France, Italy, Switzerland, and in 1993, he settled in Weston, Massachusetts, the USA.  Since 1959, the artist has held personal exhibitions in various galleries and museums across the world, including Rome, London, Paris, Montreal, Jerusalem. His first exhibition in Vilnius took place in 2001. Samuel Bak received an honorary doctorate degree from Massachusetts College of Art. His artwork is characterized by an authentic style that combines the elements of perfect Renaissance bodies and the metaphysical spaces, a unique approach to iconography and the symbolism.

Other Honorary Citizens of Vilnius include architect Algimantas Nasvytis, who received the title last year, then Ronald Reagan, Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson, Kazimieras Vasiliauskas, Mstislav Rostropovich, Dennis Haster, Česlovas Milošas, Justinas Marcinkevičius, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jonas Kubilius, Algirdas Kaušpėdas, Tomas Venclova, Shimon Peres and Algirdas Mykolas Brazauskas.