Loss and Affirmation: Illustrations and Drawings by William Pachner

William Pachner was born in Moravia, Austro-Hungarian Empire (later Czechoslovakia) in 1915.  He left his home and family to pursue a career in commercial illustration in the United States in 1939 only a few days before the Nazis occupied Czechoslovakia.

Pachner moved to Chicago and became the art director at Esquire Magazine. When America entered World War II, he felt compelled to take a more active part in the war effort and left his position to enlist in the army but was rejected.  Instead of returning to the magazine, Pachner devoted himself to free-lance antifascist illustrations for Colliers, Cosmopolitan and other popular magazines of the day.

When the war ended in 1945 and he received confirmation that his parents and brother were murdered, Pachner said: “Never again will my hand be hired. From now on, I shall use whatever gifts I have to bear witness to my experience.”

With a family to support, he left the well-paid world of commercial art and became a studio artist.

Turning to his work, Pachner used pen and paper, paint and canvas to communicate his grief and his reaction to man’s inhumanity to man.  The artworks made during the period directly following the war convey feelings of despair, anger and bitterness. Following these, his work focused on human connection, comfort, and affirmation.

This collection was donated in 2016 by the children of Pachner’s children, Ann and Charles Pachner. The works are markedly different than those by the artist already held and exhibited by the Museum and were painted during World War II and in the years immediately following.