Yehuda Pen

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Yehuda Pen, self-portrait, 1922

Yehuda Pen, also known as Yuri Pen (Yiddish: יודל פּען‎ – Yudl Pen, 5 June 1854, Zarasai, Lithuania – 1 March 1937, Vitebsk, Belarus) was a Litvak artist-painter, a teacher and an outstanding figure of the Jewish Renaissance in the Russian and Belarusian art of the beginning of 20th century. Pen was, arguably, the most significant Jewish painter in the Russian Empire, whose achievement parallels the contribution of Mark Antokolski to sculpture.


Yehuda Pen was born on May 24 (on June 5 Old Style) 1854 in the city of Novoalexandrovsk (nowadays Zarasai, Lithuania, also known in Yiddish as Ezhereni). Early having been deserted, since 1867 worked as apprentice in the painter house in Dvinsk (nowadays Daugavpils, Latvia). In 1879 he moved to Saint Petersburg, in 1880 has acted in the Academy of arts. Studied at P. Chistyakov. Upon graduating from the Academy (1886) veins in Dvinsk and Riga.

In 1891 he settled in Vitebsk and a year later opened first private school of drawing and painting in Russian Empire – the Jewish art school. Pen's pupils included Ilya Mazel, Yefim Minin, Oskar Meshchaninov, Marc Chagall, Ossip Zadkine, Leon Gaspard, and El Lissitzky. In 1927 Pen was conferred the rank of the Deserved Jewish artist.

The artist was killed at home in Vitebsk on the night of 28 February/1 March 1937. The circumstances of his murder remain unknown.

After Pen's death a gallery of his works was created in Vitebsk. Today, Pen's works are stored in the Vitebsk Museum of Modern Art and the National Art Museum of the Republic of Belarus.



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