A vintage portrait series begins...

In a previous post, I offered a portrait from times past of a young girl named Lottie.

I enjoyed painting and then imagining a life for Lottie so I decided I would attempt one vintage portrait a week during the entire year.

I am already seeing the collection as a whole and thinking what I might do with it.  (First published in January, 2018. Check the drop down menu for other vintage portraits.)

The challenge came from an artist group on Facebook, Series 52. I added my first week's sketch, a charcoal portrait, without really having a series in mind. With charcoal, I can paint a portrait in about two hours. Lottie, the first vintage portrait completed in mixed media, and last week's submission, took about 14 hours from start to finish.

Although vintage will be the theme, I have lots of latitude in the way I will treat each portrait.

As I search for portraits to paint, I am learning about postcards, penny photos, hairstyles, and dress from different historical  periods. There is variety enough to keep me motivated for a while anyway.

Eliana Beker - vintage portrait 2

Eliana's story

Raised all her life in Cologne, Germany, Eliana is the daughter of Polish-born Jewish parents, Eliezer and Ingrid Beker.

Eliana's father, a textile merchant, and the family live a few blocks away from the Roonstrasse Synagogue.

On the night of November 10, 1938, Eliana's family is frightened by the sounds of shattering glass. Although Eliana's mother will not allow her to look out the window, the disturbance has everyone on edge.

Soon enough, the noise is louder and stones are pelted at the front of their imposing brick house. A few minutes later, the large bay window is smashed and voices are heard much more clearly.

Eliana and her family have already found a safe haven in the attic of their home where they wait until dawn to emerge. The servants having retired to their quarters early the previous day, are already beginning to clean up the shards of glass in the parlour.

When Mr. Beker leaves for the factory, he discovers the Magen David has been spray painted in red on the front door.

Mr. Beker, an astute businessman, clearly sees the future. He must get Eliana to safety.

Eliana's last photo in Cologne

Eliana is fortunate that her father is able to find someone who will prepare the necessary travel documents for her. Other less influential friends were not able to secure the difficult to obtain visas. Mr. Beker plans to bring Eliana to Berlin where the next Kindertransport will leave Germany for Liverpool, England.

There is much to do before her departure including having her photo taken for travel documents. Mr. and Mrs. Beker will each keep a copy of this precious photo on them and the third copy will be used for the travel visa.

Eliana's mother asks their seamstress to sew a few new dresses for her daughter. The dress Eliana wears in the photograph was made from a frock Mrs. Beker wore for the Beker's 15th wedding anniversary. Eliana loves the delicate purple flowers on the white background. Mrs. Beker has knit Eliana a sweater with a hat and gloves in coordinating colours. Eliana must be warm during the cold rainy days in Britain.

Finally, Mrs. Beker curls her daughter's thick chestnut hair into ringlets, a style they both favour.

Eliana knows she is leaving the people that mean the most to her in the entire world.

She cannot imagine the horrors that are to come in the future. She only knows that a family waits for her in Liverpool. Her father says that she must go far away to be safe.

Eliana cannot muster a smile in the photo. Her face shows the worry she carries with her about her future and the safety of her loved ones.

Fact and Fiction

The story I wrote about the Bekers is entirely fictional.

The events of November 10, 1938 did take place. Kristellnacht or Night of the Broken Glass targeted the homes, shops, and synagogues of the Jewish community in Germany. 

The Kindertransport also really did exist.

Trains filled with Jewish children departed from major cities in European countries bound for adoptive families in England. This last-ditch effort to save Jewish children from Nazi occupied countries  occurred over nine months, and rescued some 10,000 lives, all under the age of 17.

Most countries, including the USA and Canada, did very little to help the plight of the Jews under Nazi rule.

Most Kindertransport children would never see their families again. Approximately 1.5 million children died during the Holocaust.

For many years, I taught about the horrors of the Holocaust. One of the better documentaries I used in class, Into the Arms of Strangers, is a powerful video with interviews with the children, now adults, who were rescued in the Kindertransport system.

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