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Rachel Levy (nee Slomovic) (b. 1930)

Seven Portraits commissioned by Prince Charles bear witness to horror suffered by Holocaust survivors

A new show of seven portrait paintings of Holocaust survivors has opened at the Queen’s Gallery  in Buckingham Palace to commemorate Holocaust Memorial Day.

The show is called Seven Portraits: Surviving The Holocaust. 

His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales commissioned seven portrait paintings to pay tribute to seven Holocaust survivors who have all been honoured for services to Holocaust awareness and education. 

The sitters and artists are:

Lily Ebert
© Ishbel Myerscough. Photograph: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022; photographer: Matthew Hollow

All of these remarkable people took refuge in Britain after World War 2 and all have harrowing tales of despair, courage and pain that is absolutely unimaginable to most of us.  

The painters, however, have sought to get into the soul of the survivors through the medium of visual artistry and bear witness to those 6 million men, women and children who lost their lives during the Holocaust.

As Patron of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust since 2015, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales has carried out other projects to record paintings of the Battle of Britain veterans in 2010 and veterans of the D-Day landings in 2015.

It was those two projects which were the inspiration for Seven Portraits: Surviving The Holocaust. 

The seven paintings hang in an intimate smaller room at the Queen’s Gallery that is also home to some very famous Canalettos, Rembrandts, Rubens and van Dycks which make up the Masterpieces From Buckingham Palace show.

Upon entering the darkened room as you look at the seven paintings, you cannot help but notice  the survivors’ eyes which seem to be staring back at you, piercingly so.  

Each of the portraits has an immense air of dignity and resilience. 

Accompanying each painting are the sitters’ stories which make for a harrowing read.

The project of painting the survivors began at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic which made it tricky for both artists and sitters to work closely, as is the norm with portraiture.

Massimiliano Pironti started his portrait of Arek Hersh on Zoom until it became safe to travel from his home in Germany to finish off the painting in person. 

Arek Hersh
© Massimiliano Pironti. Photograph: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022; photographer: Matthew Hollow

Stuart Pearson Wright’s painting of Rachel Levy was concluded after initially meeting Rachel in person, taking numerous photographs of her and working from those to avoid any unnecessary contact to keep Rachel safe.   

The paintings will become part of the Royal Collection and stand as a testament to those who lost their lives and those who survived. 

Seven Portraits: Surviving The Holocaust runs at The Queens Gallery, Buckingham Palace until 13 February, 2022.

Tickets are priced from £8 – £16 with under 5’s free. 

Feature image: Rachel Levy© Stuart Pearson Wright. Photograph: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2022; photographer: Matthew Hollow

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