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Rebuilding a Destroyed World: Rudolf Beres – A Jewish Art Collector in Interwar Kraków


Agnieszka Yass-Alston


February 2016


Interwar Kraków was a vibrant cultural center in newly independent Poland. Jewish intelligentsia played a significant part in preservation of Krakowian culture, but also endowed artist and cultural institutions. In a shadow of renowned Maurycy Gottlieb, there is his great collector
and promoter of his artistic oeuvre, Rudolf Beres (1884-1964). The core of the collection was inherited from his father Emil. Rudolf, who arrived to Kraków to study law, brought these pictures with him, and with time extended the collection, not only with Maurycy Gottlieb’s artworks, but also other distinguished Polish artists.

As a director of the Kraków Chamber of Commerce and Industry he played an influential role in the city and country scene. As a member of Solidarność – Kraków B’nai Brith chapter, he was active in the cultural events and ventures in the city. He was the main force behind the famous exhibition of Maurycy Gottlieb’s of 1932 in the National Museum in Kraków. Rudolf collected extensive information on Maurycy in order to commemorate his life and promote artistic oeuvre of the first Jewish artist of such significance.

His home art gallery, mostly because of Gottlieb’s collection was visited by various Jewish activists; for example Hayim Nahman Bialik. Moreover, Rudolf planned to exhibit Maurycy’s work in Tel Aviv. With a group of B’nai B’rith members he traveled with his wife to visit Palestine. He was a close friend of Feliks Kopera, the director of the National Museum in Kraków, for which he extensively organized money collection for erecting a new galleries’ building.


a) Archival documents

Archive of Ein Harod

Archive of National Museum in Kraków

Archive of Wawel Royal Castle in Kraków

Central Archive for the History of the Jewish People

Central Archives of Historical Record (AGAD) in Warsaw

Jagiellonian University Archive in Kraków

National Archive in Kraków

Private Archives of the Beres Family in Israel and Canada

The National Library of Israel, Archives Department

Yad Vashem Archive, Jerusalem

Manuscripts of Rudolf Beres


b) Press

Gazeta Narodowa 1893, no. 126.

Głos Narodu 1924, nos 121-123.

Ilustrowany Kuryer Codzienny 1924, nos 149, 152.

Miesięcznik Żydowski 1932, no. 3.

Nowy Dziennik 1931, nos 283, 293, 295, 317, 324; 1932, no. 109; 1936, no. 12.

Sztuki Piękne 1932, no. 1.

Rzeczy Piękne, Organ Muzeum Przemysłowego w Krakowie VI (1927), no. 9.


c) Catalogues of exhibitions

Guralnik, N. (ed.) (1991), In the Flower of Youth. Maurycy Gottlieb 1856-1879, The Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Dvir Publishers Ltd., Tel Aviv.

Jacek Malczewski 1855-1929, lipiec-sierpień-wrzesień 1939, Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Sztuk Pięknych Krakowie, Kraków 1939.

Katalog Wystawy Pamiątkowej Dzieł Maurycego Gottlieba, Kraków, Marzec 1932, Muzeum Narodowe, Kraków 1932.

Maurycy Gottlieb 1856-1879. Commemorative Exhibition on the Occasion of the Centennial of his Birth, February-March, 1956, The Bazalel National Museum, Jerusalem 1956.

Maurycy Gottlieb 1856-1879. Katalog wystawy pamiątkowej urządzonej przez TPSP Krakowie na dochód budowy gmachu Muzeum Narodowego Krakowie, 24 czerwca – 31 lipiec, 1923, Kraków 1923.


d) Secondary literature

Brenner, M. (1996), The Renaissance of Jewish Culture in Weimar Germany, Ann Arbor, MI.

Cohen, J., Cohen, R.I. (2008), The Jewish Contribution to Civilization. Reassessing an Idea, London.

Cohen, R.I. (2012), Visualizing and Exhibiting Jewish Space and History (Studies in Contemporary Jewry XXVI), Oxford.

Dziurzyński, J. (1899), Sprawozdanie szesnaste Dyrekcyi C.K. III Gimnazyum Krakówie za rok 1899, Kraków.

Fuchs, F., Łaszczyńska, O., Prus, J. (1972), Źródła do Dziejów Wawelu, t. VI, Kraków.

Grupińska, A. (2013), Rodzice pobrali się 24 grudnia 1904, in: A. Grupińska (ed.), 12 opowieści żydowskich, Wołowiec: pp. 137-156.

Guralnik, N. (1991), In the Flower of Youth. Maurycy Gottlieb (1856-1879), Tel Aviv.

Janoszanka, M. (1935), Wielki Tercjarz: moje wspomnienia Jacku Malczewskim, Poznań.

Kargol, T. (2003), Izba Przemysłowo-Handlowa Krakówie latach 1850-1939. Dzieje – ludzie – polityka, Kraków.

Kraków Buduje Muzeum Narodowe, Kraków 1935.

Kulczykowski, M. (1995), Żydzi – studenci Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego dobie autonomicznej Galicji (1867-1918), Kraków.

Maurycy Gottlieb 1856-1879 (1923a), 26 reprodukcji według obrazów mistrza, Wien.

Maurycy Gottlieb 1856-1879 (1923b), 26 reprodukcji według obrazów mistrza, ze wstępem Feliksa Kopery wydane we Wiedniu przez wielbicieli artysty, Wien.

Mendelsohn, E. (2002), Painting People: Maurycy Gottlieb and Jewish Art (The Tauber Institute Series for the Study of European Jewry), Brandeis.

Michalewicz, J. (ed.) (1999), Corpus studiosorum Universitatis Iagellonicae in saeculis XVIII-XX. Tomus III: A-D, Kraków.

Siedlecki, S. (1894), Sprawozdanie jedenaste Dyrekcyi C.K. Gimnazyum III. Krakowie za rok 1894, Kraków.

Siedlecki, S. (1897), Sprawozdanie czternaste Dyrekcyi C.K. Gimnazyum III. Krakowie za rok szkolny 1897, Kraków.

Sołtysik, T. (1900), Sprawozdanie osiemnaste Dyrekcyi C.K. Gimanzyum III. Krakowie za rok 1900, Kraków.

Sołtysik, T. (1901), Sprawozdanie siedemnaste Dyrekcyi C.K. Gimanzyum III. Krakowie za rok 1901, Kraków.

Sprawozdanie dwunaste Dyrekcyi C.K. III. Gimnazyum Krakowie za rok szkolny 1895, Kraków 1895.

Sprawozdanie trzynaste Dyrekcyi C.K. III. Gimnazyum Krakowie za rok szkolny 1896, Kraków 1896.

Waldman, M. (1932), Maurycy Gottlieb, 1856-1879. Biografia Artystyczna, Wydanie Komitetu Wystawy Pamiątkowej Dzieł Maurycego Gottlieba, Kraków.

Wiesenberg, J. (1885), Maurycy Gottlieb (1856-1879). Szkic biograficzny, Złoczów. 

ISSN 1733-5760
e-ISSN 2084-3925

The essay is published online. To buy the essay for 3,99zl and to see the content list of this edition of Scripta Judaica Cracoviensia go to

The paper presents forgotten and unpublished facts about a Jewish art collector of Kraków,a person whose art works he once possessed and cherished, are now in various museums and private collections as a result of WWII and communist regime. I bring the man back from obscurity of history’s selectiveness. The historical documents, family heirlooms and discovered war memoirs of Rudolf construct the past of the great Jewish citizen of Kraków without whom Maurycy Gottlieb could have been unknown as much as he is known now.
Instytut Judaistyki
Uniwersytet Jagielloński
ul. Józefa 19
31-056 Kraków


Scripta Judaica Cracoviensia, Volume 13 (2015), published online on 25 February 2016 by the Chair in Jewish Studies, Jagiellonian University. It concentrates on the history, culture and language of the Jews from antiquity to to the present. Editor-in-Chief: Edward Dąbrowa

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