Roman Vishniac, Untitled, Jerusalem 1967


The Magnes to present new exhibition of Photographer Roman Vishniac

July 31, 2023

BERKELEY — The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life announces its newest exhibition, Cities and Wars: Roman Vishniac in Berlin and Jerusalem (1947/1967), opening August 29, 2023 and featuring never before seen work by Russian-Jewish photographer Roman Vishniac (1897-1990).

Cities and Wars follows Vishniac’s journeys to Berlin in 1947 and Jerusalem in 1967. The photographer considered both cities ‘home,’ each in a very different and unique way—Berlin, a once fabled, and then lost, haven where he had begun his life as a documentary photographer; and Jerusalem, which catered to his deep connection with the Jewish experience,” reflects Magnes Curator Francesco Spagnolo. “Both cities were devastated by war as Vishniac photographed them: World War II had completely destroyed Berlin, and the Six-Day War had thoroughly transformed Jerusalem. Each journey echoes dramatically in today’s experience.” 

Using large-format black-and-white photographic prints from negatives shot in Berlin, along with digital displays of color slides from Jerusalem, this exhibition shares Vishniac’s unique gaze and careful chronicling of the effects of war on urban life.

Born to a Russian-Jewish family, Roman Vishniac lived in interwar Berlin and immigrated to the United States in 1940. A versatile photographer, biologist, art collector, and educator, Vishniac’s imagery ranges from urban street life to rural communities and from portraiture to cutting-edge microphotography.

“Roman Vishniac’s iconic photographs—literally tens of thousands of surviving images—have shaped our perception of Jewish life in Europe before the Holocaust,” said Tad Taube, founder and chairman of Taube Philanthropies. “Now, The Magnes shines a light on his lesser known, though equally important, photographs of Jews in postwar Berlin and in Jerusalem in the wake of the 1967 war. Taube Philanthropies is proud to support this remarkable archive that enables people everywhere to treasure Jewish experience and to carry this legacy forward.”

Showcasing new facets of the renowned photographer’s body of work is an integral part of the care and processing of the Roman Vishniac Archive, which the photographer’s daughter, Mara Vishniac Kohn, donated to The Magnes in 2018. The Archive is generously supported by Taube Philanthropies, Libitzky Family Foundation, Barbara and Sheldon Rothblatt, Frederick J. Isaac Philanthropic Fund, Richard Nagler, and an anonymous donor.

“It is a privilege to exhibit never-before published photographs from the Roman Vishniac Archive that offer insights into the consequences of war, as well as the ways in which life can remain in and return to cities that have experienced the horrors of armed conflict,” said Magnes Executive Director Hannah Weisman. “Cities and Wars begins to reveal the depth of Vishniac’s legacy. Our ongoing project to process the Archive and provide public access to it will certainly reveal new understandings of Vishniac’s enduring influence as a documentarian and artist.”   

The Magnes Collection is currently processing the Roman Vishniac Archive. Materials from the archive are not yet available.

Cities & Wars: Roman Vishniac in Berlin & Jerusalem 1947/1967

An opening reception and program will be held in person on Tuesday, September 5, from 5:00 to 7:00 pm at The Magnes, 2121 Allston Way, Berkeley, CA. Reservations are requested.

Museum Hours August 29–December 14, 2023
Tuesday, Wednesday: 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
OPEN LATE Thursday: 11:00 am – 7:00 pm
BEGINNING OCT 8th Sunday: 11:00 am – 4:00 pm
Closed Monday, Friday, Saturday, and major holidays

Admission is free.

Keep Up-To-Date