Personnage with Hood and Donkey Ears

Maryan S. Maryan spent the majority of his artistic career painting solitary grotesque figures, many with hoods, animal ears, and explosions of innards. These “personnages,” as he called them, reflect the horror and trauma of his wartime experiences.

Maryan S. Maryan

Maryan S. Maryan was born Pinchas Burstein in Nowy-Sącz, Poland, in 1927. He spent the war years in various ghettos, labor camps, and concentration camps and suffered countless horrors, including the loss of his family, being shot in the neck and left for dead, and being forced to carry corpses to a crematorium. As the Russians arrived to liberate the camps he was shot in the leg, which was amputated to save his life.

The trauma of Maryan’s Holocaust experience is an unmistakable force in his work. The artist Irving Petlin, a close friend of Maryan’s, remarked, “He made pictures like other people throw-up—they were literally spewed out, one after another.” Petlin’s description reflects not only Maryan’s unstoppable production—paintings were often completed in a single day—but also the violent multicolored expulsions that appear in Maryan’s work. Maryan died at age 50, after suffering from emotional and physical deterioration.

Herman Spertus, one of the brothers for whom Spertus Institute is named, was deeply affected by Maryan’s talent and struggles. He was an early collector of Maryan’s work, hosted the artist for a period of time in his home, and introduced his work to other important collectors. Because of this significant artist-patron relationship, Spertus Institute has 53 works by Maryan in its collection, as well as an archive of related materials.

Ecce Homo

Ecce Homo

In this harrowing 90 minute experimental film, Maryan recounts the trauma he experienced during the Holocaust, aided by costumes, props, cantorial music, and montaged images from other 20th century genocides and human rights abuses. Filmed in 1975 at New York’s Chelsea Hotel

From the Spertus Collection

Name: Personnage with Hood and Donkey Ears
Artist: Maryan S. Maryan
Origin: United States, 1971
Medium: Oil on Canvas, Painting
Dimensions: 45 1/4 x 35 in.
Credit: Museum Purchase from Herman Spertus Acquisition Fund
Catalog Number: 95.83
Asher LibraryMaryan: Behold a Man and His Work

—Jeanne Marie Wasilik (Chicago: Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies, 1996)

Asher LibraryMaryan’s Personnages: Works in Chicago Collections 1958-1975

—Michele Vishny (Chicago: Spertus College of Judaica, 1983)

Asher LibraryVisual Culture and the Holocaust

—Barbie Zelizer (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001)

Asher Library La Ménagerie Humaine, Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme 2014

—Maryan (Paris: Musée d'art et d'histoire du Judaïsme, 2013)