Iosif Klein


Who was he?

Iosif Klein mainly dwelled within impressionist styles as was the custom of the period. However, what sets him apart from many other artists form that era is the astounding sadness and despair found in much of his work. This of course is without surprise as the life he had lead was not particularly a very good one, as many other Romanian Jews during World Ward 2.

The great tragedy of this artist was not only in his own life, but ultimately the dire expression of the hardship that surrounded him. He was born in poverty, as many Jews were in Romania, and lived in poverty until he found relative success with some of his galleries and showings in the 1920’s. Although he was a native of Baia Mare, he traveled around Romania exhibiting his work prolifically. He even spent one year in Paris studying with the masters.

However, his success was cut short as the Romanian government began enacting anti-Jewish legislation thus prohibiting him and all other Jews from ever exhibiting their beautiful art. Unable to make a living he continued to live in poverty and under Nazi and Iron Guard Terror. In 1944, he along with his wife were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau were he died.

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Why is his work important?

If one merely glances at Klein’s work it becomes obvious that pain, sorrow and despair were something which were normal attributes of this artists life. From beginning to the end of his life, like many other Jews in Romania who perished under Nazi terror. The distinctive impressionist style is merely only a platform from which he launches his increasingly dejected and individualist ideas towards the viewer.

The people exhibited in his work are either constantly working, and when they are not they are filled with sadness. There is a distinct effort to show that life is full of drudgery and sadness even in moments where pleasure should be natural. Now, the question remains what compelled Iosif Klein to maintain such a negative view of the world around him? It is in my opinion that as a Jew, and as a Romanian he suffered greatly- not only because of poverty, but also because of anti-semitism.Yet, even so there is a wider and more far-reaching idea being state in his work- humanism and being human is painful. Yet, as the Jewish people, Romanian people and all the people of the world we soldier on and move on throughout universal drudgery.


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