David Labkovski (1906-1991) was born in Vilnius (Vilna), but was exiled to Siberia after the first occupation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union in 1940.
Despite poor health, the painter survived the deportation thanks to his artistic skill – he would draw tattoos for his fellow inmates in Siberian labour camps.
When Labkovski returned to Vilnius after the war, he found the city in ruins and all his family fallen victims to the Holocaust. He later emigrated to the United States.
“David Labkovski’s works are magnificent, they remind us of artists who depicted the history of humanity. It is often undeservedly forgotten. We can name many rock stars, Hollywood actors, politicians, but we should not just know Labkovski, we must remember him as a brave man. For me, he is a source of inspiration, a man who had courage to survive a huge tragedy,” says painter and historian John Paul Thornton.
In his paintings, Labkovski captured scenes from interwar Vilnius and the lives of its people.
Art historians, who recently rediscovered his works, say that Labkovski’s oeuvre could serve as a good introduction to teaching about the Holocaust in US schools.