Joseph Raynefeld spent his childhood in the Jewish district in Warsaw. As his mother died, he was raised by his father. In 1925, after graduating high school, he enrolled in the School of Fine Arts in Warsaw. He arrived in Paris in 1928 and joined the Académie Ranson. He befriended Léopold Gottlieb, Moise Kisling, Roman Kramsztyk, Josef Pankiewicz, and Mela Muter, and often visited the Louvre. From 1932, he traveled to San Gimignano and Arezzo in Tuscany. In 1938, he visited Italy, Spain, Tunisia, and Libya. Back in Paris in 1940, he walked to Bordeaux and took refuge in Sainte-Foy-la-Grande. On July 12, 1940, as the German army arrived in the village, he committed suicide. His drawings have been kept at the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaisme in Paris, where they were exhibited in fall 1999.
Capitale des arts, le Paris des années 1905-1939 attire les artistes du monde entier. De cette période de foisonnement, un terme est resté, celui d'Ecole de Paris, qui recouvre une grande diversité d'expression artistique. Dans ce brassage dont Montparnasse est le creuset, un groupe se distingue : celui des artistes juifs venus de Russie, de Pologne et d'Europe centrale. Si leurs styles sont variés, un destin commun les rassemble : ils fuient l'antisémitisme de leur pays d'origine. Certains ont connu la célébrité dès les années 1920, tels Soutine, Lipchitz ou Chagall. D'autres n'ont pas eu le temps ou la chance d'y accéder. Près de la moitié a péri dans les camps de concentration nazis.
From 1905 to 1939, Paris attracted artists from all over the globe as the capital of the art world. This period of artistic proliferation became known as the School of Paris, and includes a great diversity of artistic expression. Within the teeming art world centred on Montparnasse, one group set itself apart: Jewish artists from Russia, Poland, and Central Europe. Although their styles were diverse, they shared the common fate of fleeing anti-Semitic persecutions in their home countries. Some became famous in the 1920s, such as Soutine, Lipchitz, and Chagall, while others did not have the time or the luck to gain renown. Nearly half of these artists died in Nazi concentration camps.