This accession consists of two drawings that were produced by artists in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia. The first is a portrait created by Petr Kien of a friend of his who was a composer named Gideon Klien. The second work of art is a drawing of the gates of the Camp by Jan Burka, the brother of the donor. The artifacts are in the form of currency from the Theresienstadt Camp from 1943. They include a 2, 20 and 100 currency note.
Jan Burka was born in Postelberg, Czechoslovak Republic in 1924. In 1939, at the age of fifteen, Burka moved to Prague and studied under the artists Evzen Nevan (1914-1967) and Petr Kien (1919-1944). One year later, Burka began attending art school in Prague. In 1942, Burka was sent to the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. After the war ended, Burka lived in Holland, Canada, and France. While in Amsterdam, Burka attended the Academy of Art and studied under the German artist Heinrich Campendonk. Five Amsterdam exhibitions featured Burka’s artwork in the years 1946-1950. The artist moved to Canada in the early 1950s. While living in Canada, Burka had at least three solo exhibitions in Toronto: one in 1952, another in 1955, and a third at the Gallery Moos in 1961. Burka also had a solo exhibition in New York City in 1958. Currently, Burka lives in Arles, France. The artist’s ever-changing style has produced a diverse body of work that includes drawings of Ghetto surroundings, landscapes, nudes, cubist designs, sculptures, and more.
Petr Kien was born on 1 January 1919 in Varnsdorf, Czechoslovak into a family of cloth merchants. In 1929-1930, Kien’s family moved to Brno where Petr practiced writing, drawing, and painting. He moved to Prague in 1936 where he met Ilsau Stránská, whom he married in Theresienstadt. The Germans deported Petr to Theresienstadt in December 1941. While at Theresienstadt, Kien served as head of the Camp administration’s Technical Drawing Department and pursued artistic expressions publicly and privately in his free time with stolen art tools. Around 1943, Kien painted the portrait of Gideon Klien, a well-known composer who served as head of the Music Department at Theresienstadt but died in Auschwitz. Other works of art Kien created at Theresienstadt include a libretto for Victor Ullmann’s opera, The Emperor of Atlantis, also known as Death Abdicates, poetry, the play Puppets, and more paintings. In October 1944, Kien was deported to Auschwitz, where he died of an infectious disease.