Yehuda Vardi - Wallenberg Collection
Yehuda Vardi 1919 - 1990
The Israeli painter Yehuda Vardi had gained name and recognition in his home country for his soft, colorful portraits of beautiful women. Portraying Wallenberg reveals a work unprecedented in his oeuvre; a treasure of monumental paintings devoted to Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved the lives of thousands of Jews in World War 2.
Born in Iraq, Vardi immigrated to Israel at the age of seven with his family, to settle first in a Kibbutz and later in Tel Aviv, where he studied art in University. He was a socially conscious artist, and upon reading about Wallenberg he came to see the Swedish diplomat as his hero. Mesmerized by the story of Wallenberg, the painter studied obsessively every book or document he could find about the savior of the Budapest Jewish community.
His fascination was captured in a series of monumental paintings: 31 oil paintings on canvas of 2 x 3 meter (7 x 10 foot) and 3 x 3 meter (10 x 10 foot). The paintings portray Wallenberg himself, the Jewish victims of the holocaust, the martyrdom of children, Jewish men and women bearing the yellow star being deported to death camps, and more.
Vardi was 62 years old when he died in tragic circumstances in 1990.
Raoul Wallenberg was born on August 4, 1912, to a family of Swedish industrialists in Stockholm. During World War 2, following a world-spanning career in commerce, he was appointed as a secretary at the Swedish embassy in Budapest, Hungary's capitol.
In 1944, while Hungary was under the occupation of Nazi Germany, Wallenberg led a unique effort to save Jews whose lives had been threatened by Hitler's "Final Solution". Wallenberg, motivated by personal sympathy and acting unofficially, issued Swedish passports for thousands of men, women and children. Issuing those passports and making other diplomatic efforts, Wallenberg practically snatched the remains of Europe's last surviving Jewish community off trains heading for the death camps.
In 1945, after the Soviet authorities took over Budapest, Wallenberg disappeared during a visit to a Russian outpost, and was apparently kidnapped. According to eyewitnesses, he was later held in Lyublyanka prison in Russia.
The young diplomat, one of the great heroes of the war, had never been seen since. The Russians announced that he had died in prison in1947. But the mystery of his fate persisted, and many organizations worldwide are still pursuing the truth. What really happened in Lyublyanka prison; did the Russians kidnap the Swedish diplomat thinking he was an American agent? Is it true that he was kidnapped by the henchmen of Brezhnev who had intended to plunder the treasures of Hungarian Jews, which had been in his custody during the war? All these questions remain unanswered.
Wallenberg was honored as one of the "Righteous Among The Nations" - people who risked their lives to save the lives of Jews during the holocaust - by Yad Vashem institute in Jerusalem.