Loss and Affirmation: Illustrations and Drawings by William Pachner is now open at The Florida Holocaust Museum! The exhibition is open from July 27 through January 5, 2020.
Loss and Affirmation: Illustrations and Drawings by William Pachner tells the story of American artist William Pachner. He 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.
As Pachner worked through the themes of Nazism and the Holocaust, his focused changed from images of war scenes and concentration camps to those lacking any reference to the bitterness an anger of the artist’s loss.
This collection was donated in 2016 by Pachner’s children, Anne 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.
To learn more about Loss and Affirmation: Illustrations and Drawings by William Pachner visit The Florida Holocaust Museum through January 5, 2020.