Auction 86 - Part I - Rare & Important Items

Painting by the Chassidic Artist Zalman Kleinman – "From Chaslavitch to Lubavitch" (Chassidim Travelling to the Rebbe) – Oil on Canvas, Signed

Opening: $100,000
Estimate: $1,000,000 - $1,500,000
Sold for: $600,000
Including buyer's premium

Zalman Kleinman (1933-1995), "From Chaslavitch to Lubavitch". [Crown Heights, Brooklyn NY], 1983.
Oil on canvas. Signed in Hebrew and English ("זלמן קליימן" / "Z. Kleiman"), titled and dated.
Approx. 205.5X129.5 cm. Good condition.

This painting, which is one of the most famous works of the Chassidic artist Zalman Kleinman, portrays a group of ten Chassidim from Chaslavitch (Khislavichi) in a horse-drawn wagon, flying in the air, making their way to their rebbe in Lubavitch. Reproductions of this painting were printed, and are still being printed in countless books and publications, and decorate various Judaica items. This painting is often perceived as depicting the miraculous trips of the Baal Shem Tov.
The name of the painting, "From Chaslavitch to Lubavitch", is also the name of a Chabad folk song in Yiddish, occasionally sung at Chassidic farbrengens (gatherings). The song describes a Chabad Chassid setting out from his home in Chaslavitch and travelling to his rebbe in Lubavitch, despite the pleas of his wife and children, and regardless of his poverty and the difficulties of travelling. He is impeded in his journey by many obstacles, due to the overwhelmingly Mitnaged population of his hometown, Chaslavitch. The rabbis and most of the townspeople of Chaslavitch were Mitnagdim, and only a small minority belonged to the Chassidic sect. Chaslavitch, Amtchislav (Mstsislaw) and Cherikov (Cherykaw) were enclaves of Mitnagdim in a predominantly Chassidic region, and were dubbed "the dark canton" (Torat Shalom by the Rashab, p. 227).

The Chassid R. Zalman Zusia Kleinman (1933-1995) produced talented portrayals of Chassidic life, and his works adorn the homes of many Chabad Chassidim in Eretz Israel and worldwide. His paintings reflect the spirit of Chabad Chassidut – prayer, study of Chassidut, Chassidic farbrengen, travelling to the rebbe, and more; and include themes of Chassidic joy and humor.
In a letter from 9 Elul 1957 (Igeret 5721), the Lubavitcher rebbe suggested to R. Zalman to publish an album of drawings depicting life in Kfar Chabad, and even promised to provide funding for the project. The rebbe instructed him to draw "without embellishment and even without artistic embellishment… The main point… is that the illustrations appear in their simplicity, as they actually are…". Upon the rebbe's instructions, R. Zalman documented Chassidic life of Kfar Chabad in its early days, in many paintings. Elder Chassidim of Kfar Chabad can still recognize in some of R. Zalman's painting the village as it was in the early 1950s, with its colorful personalities, its houses and shacks, and its muddy streets.
R. Zalman's paintings also dealt with more general Jewish topics – scenes from the Torah and Passover Haggadah, Hachnassat Sefer Torah, Kiddush Levanah, Yom Kippur, and more. He also painted landscapes and portraits. His paintings are full of life and color, draw inspiration from day-to-day life, and faithfully document the environment in which he lived and operated. In her article "Zalman Kleinman, Brooklyn Realist" (in the book "Zalman Kleinman, Paintings", which features 102 of R. Zalman's paintings), the curator Dr. Cissy Grossman describes R. Zalman's unique style:

"Jewish painters from Europe and America have expressed Jewish life largely in nostalgic formulations. In 19th century Germany, Moritz Oppenheim painted scenes of Jews celebrating Succot, preparing for a bar-mitzvah and sitting at a Passover seder. His scenes were of a bygone lifestyle that he depicted in order to record the past and to lend dignity to the history of assimilated, bourgeois German Jews. The Polish Jewish artist Maurycy Gottlieb, who came out of the Haskalah movement of intellectual enlightenment, was trained in major art schools in Vienna and Rome and expressed his Jewishness in his depiction of Biblical scenes. He expressed his personal Jewish world in portraits of his family. More regional Polish Jewish painters, such as Samuel Hirszenberg, painted Jews as dignified beggars in the small streets of the ghetto, or in mythic groups of mourners and refugees. In 20th century New York City, Ben-Zion painted women blessing the Sabbath candles as sentimental recollections of a life left behind by the waves of immigrants who escaped the pogroms of the shtetls of Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and sought out the fabled gold streets of America. Many of those immigrants associated religion with their oppressed life and became socialists and secularists. Marc Chagall, the world famous painter of the School of Paris, painted many beautiful, fantastic images located in his hometown of Vitebsk. He painted them as dream landscapes when he was far away in Paris and New York. Zalman Kleinman is one of the few Jewish painters who paints the Jewish world he inhabits".

Provenance: Stern Family Collection. Purchased directly from the artist in the 1980s.

This item will be available for viewing at University Archives, Wilton, Connecticut, and at the Stern family's house, Scarsdale, NY, by appointment through Kedem.

R. Zalman Kleinman
was born in Leningrad, Russia, to his mother Rivka, from Minsk, Belarus, and father R. Yaakov, from Warsaw, who immigrated to Russia during WWI together with his mother and younger sister Ita. During WWII, R. Zalman's grandmother and parents perished in the severe famine which reigned in German-besieged Leningrad. Zalman and his sisters were sent to public orphanages. After much efforts, their aunt Ita succeeded in bringing them over to her in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, to the home of her father-in-law R. Nachum Shemaryah Sasonkin (previously rabbi of Batumi, Georgia). The Sasonkin family left Russia in 1947, together with the Kleinman children. They lived in Paris for a short period, and in December 1949, they immigrated to Israel, where R. Zalman settled in Kfar Chabad and devoted himself to painting. In 1954, he enlisted in the IDF, serving in the military rabbinate. R. Zalman decorated synagogues in various army camps and worked as illustrator for the army weekly Machanayim. Upon completing his army service, he went to study art in Paris, and after his marriage to Mrs. Rosa Neuhaus, they settled in Crown Heights, Brooklyn NY. R. Zalman worked as illustrator for various publishing houses and for the Yiddish weekly Algemeiner Journal. His art was greatly influenced by the paintings of his colleague R. Hendel Lieberman (Futerfas), a Chabad Chassidic artist who also depicted Chassidic life in his paintings. Over the years, his works were exhibited in various exhibitions worldwide, including in the Brooklyn Museum.
R. Zalman's works decorate various Chabad books and publications, including the covers of Sefer HaNigunim and the Nichoach tapes, covers of the musical albums Yiddishe Otzarot and Otzarot Yehudiim, the Otzar Sipurei Chabad series of books, the three parts of Sefer HaZichronot by the Rayatz and the three parts of Shemuot VeSippurim, and many other items.
In her memoirs, Rachel Zamir describes her brother R. Zalman: "He was a righteous man, modest and shy. Zalman was a good, honest man, noble, with intellectual depth on all areas of life. He quietly busied himself painting, and serenely devoted his free time to Torah study. He never sought out fame or students… in his paintings he expressed his Chassidic emotion. His paintings were full of Jewish and Chassidic topics, such as devoted prayer, farbrengens, Yom Kippur prayers, Kiddush Levanah, joyous Chassidic dancing, Hachnassat Sefer Torah… his paintings made a profound impact on their viewers. They aroused longing and yearning for Judaism even in the hearts of Jews still distant from Judaism. His paintings are scattered in thousands of homes worldwide and in institutions.... His illustrations appear today in many books, which were distributed and sold in tens of thousands of copies" (Shlichut Chayai, pp. 115-116).