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Regina Mundlak

1887 – 1942

by Natasza Styrna

“She speaks her own strong and virile language—one is reluctant to believe that these strokes, full of nobility and character, originate from the hand of a young and delicate girl.” Thus, referring to the work of Regina Mundlak, wrote Karl Bayer in Ost und West (1913), a magazine published by Leo Winz (1876–1952) in Vienna, Cologne and Berlin between 1901–1923 to promote European Jewish culture to Jewish audiences in Germany.

Regina Mundlak was born in a village near Lomza (NE Poland), into a poor Jewish family. In 1901 she went to Berlin to find work, together with her mother and sister, a highly talented violinist. Her extraordinary talent rapidly brought her to the attention of the Jewish artistic milieu. Her work so impressed Max Liebermann (1847–1935) that he decided to finance her education. However, even with his help, she had difficulty in making a living. Efraim Moses Lilien (1874–1925), who did not conceal his fascination with her talent, tried to help by publishing an open letter in Ost und West in 1902, appealing for support for her, but because of financial problems she finally had to give up her studies and return to her homeland.

At the age of fifteen she was already very skilled in drawing. At first she primarily created realistic portrait studies. The works she published in 1902 showed her rare power of observation. Her pen-and-ink drawings were also greatly admired. As her subjects she most often chose characteristic Jewish types from Eastern Europe.

She exhibited her works in Warsaw at the Towarzystwo Zachęty Sztuk Pięknych (Society for Promotion of Fine Arts) in 1902 and in 1903 and at the Aleksander Krywult Salon in 1903. In 1906, once again in Berlin, she exhibited her works at the Cassirer Salon. A review of this exhibition by Hermann Struck appeared in Ost und West. Like Lilien before him, he too wrote about her “phenomenal talent.” On the occasion of her exhibition, some of her drawings were reproduced in Ost und West. The development of her creative abilities in the years between Lilien’s letter and Struck’s review is noticeable. Drawings published in 1901 were portraits; compared to later works they evidence a skilful but still somewhat uncertain hand. The works created a few years later were characterized by a stronger and surer line. These works are also more developed: while the subject of her works remained the same, she now extended her interest in portraiture to the shape of the entire human body, presenting the figures in more elaborate environments.

Looking at the reproductions, one might conclude that she was interested in nothing but Jewish life in the Lit. (Greek) "dispersion." The Jewish community, and its areas of residence, outside Erez Israel.Diaspora. There is a propensity to show the faces of older people, which she represented with great perspicacity with respect to the changes brought about by the passage of time. She also frequently drew children, portraying them with much realism, without any trace of sentimentality or mawkishness. Her passion in presenting Jewish merchants, craftsmen, women, children, men, hasidim, and old people studying Lit. "teaching," "study," or "learning." A compilation of the commentary and discussions of the amora'im on the Mishnah. When not specified, "Talmud" refers to the Babylonian Talmud.Talmud is almost documentary.

In Berlin she studied under Adolf Mayer and Lovis Corinth (1858–1925); she also referred to Hermann Struck (1876–1944) as her teacher. Before WWI she spent some time in Paris, where she created her first oils. In these she demonstrated a similar inclination to realism as in her drawing, the themes of her paintings also remaining the same. In the years between the wars her interests became relatively wider and she began creating open-air compositions. However, she most frequently painted portraits and figural scenes in a shallow, undeveloped space or on a flat and neutral background. An important quality of her oil painting is the richness of texture.

In the interwar years she maintained her own studio in Warsaw, participating in exhibitions of art in Warsaw in 1921, 1922, 1938, and in ?ód? in 1921. In 1928, she had a one-woman exhibition in Berlin.

In 1942 she was probably deported from the Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka extermination camp.

Though a very talented artist, known in the milieu of Jewish artists in Berlin at the beginning of the twentieth century, she remained almost completely forgotten. She may be criticized for a certain conservatism and lack of interest in modern trends in art, of which she said: “I don’t understand modern art, it is totally alien to me, I haven’t tried to paint in a different way just as I can’t try to live in a different way”. However, her work is important, both as a documentation of the “exotic” world of East-European Jews and for its intrinsic artistic values.


Lilien, E. M. “An open letter. Jewish patronage and Jewish art.” Ost und West 2 (1902): 109–114. (German); Struck, H. “From Cassirer Salon.” Ost und West 2 (1906): 87–90. (German); Bayer, K. “About Regina Mundlak’s works.” Ost und West 4 (1913): 289–292. (German); “Ghetto painter: “Ewa” visits R. Mundlak – well-known Jewish painter.” Ewa 37 (1928): 3. (Polish); Pless W. “Regina Mundlak.” Menorah 3-4 (1931): 128. (German); Malinowski, J. Painting and Sculpture of Polish Jews in 19th and 20th Century. Warsaw: 2000. (Polish).


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Thank you for this brief helpful biography. I inherited one of her black and white drawings from my father, Max Mundlak. It is in pen and ink, showing two very weary looking young boys in the Warsaw ghetto, in 1908.

I grew up in London. In 1946, not long after the end of the war a strange Polish man approached my father with several  of her drawings. He had looked in the telephone directory and seen that we were the only people with that name in London. He was penniless and needed to sell the pictures

My father bought about 3 or 4 of them. He asumed she was a relative. His father, Henoch Mundlak, was one of ten brothers from Novy Dwor. My father framed the one I now have and gave one each to his brother and sister. I am not sure where the other went.

The resason I am giving you this much detai lis two fold. One is: does anyone know about her personal life, if she ever married or had children?

The other is that my own first cousin, born Elijah Mundlak in Scotland in 1923, (later known as Eli Montlake) was an exceptionally talented painter and quite well known at one time.

I also had a half sister who was a very gifted violinist in London, Blanche Mundlak. She had her own orchestra and  only just died in February  2017 at 92.

There seem to be many resonances and even coincidences in this story.



In reply to by JUDITH (MUNDLA…

I have a signed pen and ink drawing of a young Jewish boy in coat and hat with his younger sister on a plain background by Regina Mundlak.regards Mark Eaton (London)

How to cite this page

Styrna, Natasza. "Regina Mundlak." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on July 2, 2020) <>.


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