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The exhibition Boris Lurie: Nothing To Do But To Try presented a portrait of an artist reckoning with devastating trauma, haunting memories, and an elusive, lifelong quest for freedom. Here we look at one of his portraits that was on view: 

Portrait of My Mother Before Shooting, 1947, Boris Lurie
Portrait of My Mother Before Shooting, 1947, Boris Lurie
36 ½ x 25 ½ in. (92.7 x 64.8 cm)
Oil on canvas
Courtesy of the Boris Lurie Art Foundation

Portrait of My Mother Before Shooting was forever one of Lurie’s most prized possessions. Though it is an impressive likeness of the beautiful and steadfast Shaina, it is rendered in the monotone colors and gauzy haze of a memory. Lurie’s memoir reverently describes his mother’s strength and resourcefulness. From the beginning of the Nazi occupation to the harrowing days before her death, it was she who took charge. Shaina’s insistence on separating the family, sending the men to the work camp, made Boris and Ilya’s survival possible.

The choice of title seems deliberately violent — suggesting Lurie’s intention not only to make a portrait of his mother, but to create a lasting reminder of the way she perished. It is unclear if the title refers to the very moment before her death, which likely haunted Lurie’s imagination, or to her full life, the life in the “before.”

Visit the Boris Lurie: Nothing To Do But To Try exhibition page to learn more about Boris Lurie.

Boris Lurie: Nothing To Do But To Try was made possible by The Knapp Family Foundation, Patricia Askwith Kenner & Family, and other generous donors.
Boris Lurie Art Foundation logo
Special thanks to the Boris Lurie Art Foundation for its commitment to this presentation.