Adler Ernő Kaba Wolf Elijahu
Satu Mare, 1912 – Tel Aviv, 1989
The life story
Adler Kaba’s life was a journey of reinvention forced by tragedy and circumstances.
The art story
Adler Kaba’s art focuses on individuals, their existence, and their introspective nature.
The child Adler Kaba
The story of Adler Kaba’s life starts within a humble family, his father being a sales apprentice and his mother a housekeeper. As for the Adler child, according to the artist’s later recollection, while other Jewish children were studying Torah, he was painting.
It’s no surprise he debuted at the precocious age of 12 when he got enrolled in the famous colony of painters from Baia Mare before later enrolling with the Budapest School of Arts. Given this background, he participated in a multitude of cultural events that helped him get acquainted with the art world of Budapest.
The adult Adler Kaba
In 1935 he was recruited into the Romanian Air Force. Even though the artist's acquaintances unanimously remember that Adler Kaba painted day and night, nothing made in this period of time was preserved. Nevertheless, he enjoyed early success in his artistic career, focused on the individual and her or his existence. The representation of the facial expression, which is emphasized as being a mirror of the soul to the detriment of an anatomically perfect structure of the figure, reflects his introspective nature. As apparent in the picture from our collection (Cărăuși), his characters suffer, his work is heavy, and his color palette is austere.
Adler Kaba’s happy marriage abruptly interrupted in 1942, when he was taken to Ukraine in a forced labor camp.
Deportation followed, but art saved him from an expected death. His art rescued him from the gas chamber, as he became the personal artist of one of the camp officers. Adler Kaba was no longer a person, he was prisoner number 12257 in Hungary, a prisoner with a camera, paper, brushes, and paint, who illustrated the stories written and sent by the SS officer to his daughters in Berlin. Circumstances outside his control threw the artist into a period of forced introspection. No longer a person, he was still an artist.
His experience of the detention camp and the one of the millions of deportees were illustrated in 14 graphics making up the “1944-1945 Auschwitz” album, published in 1947 in 200 copies. He had a personal exhibition in Satu Mare and participated in a group exhibition in Cluj-Napoca and also had international exhibitions in Austria. Given this, the experience of the death camp transcends borders and people outside them can get a small sense of it.
The old and new Adler Kaba
The Kaba family, as more than 250,000 Jews between 1944 and 1948, emigrated to the state of Israel with the knowledge that they have the security of life and the hope of liberation. There, in Tel Aviv, he renounced his former Kaba name and reinvented himself. He ventures into the applied arts by making stamps or textiles while also teaching drawing and painting at his apartment.
In the 1960s, he integrated in to the new art scene formed by the Hungarian cultural community in Israel. He organized the first personal exhibition in Israel with 51 artworks, where, most likely also in the context of developing a new artistic environment, an interest in abstract art began to emerge, indicating his strong desire for reinvention. The new and the old Alder Kaba died in 1989 in Tel Aviv after a blossoming and rewarding artistic career.