Ephraim Mandelbaum was born into a pious and humble family in Lublin. His father, who was a carpenter, moved to Lodz. Ephraim Mandelbaum received a religious education before enrolling in a Russian school. He started painting at a very young age and was encouraged to follow his artistic vocation by his first painting teacher Samuel Hirschenberg. In 1905, he was awarded a scholarship. He enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in Krakow and studied under Joseph Mehoffer, an artist famed for his portraits and his stained-glass windows. In Krakow, Dr Frenkel, a chemist, took an interest in Mandelbaum’s painting and supported him financially. When Mandelbaum suddenly fell ill, his patron advised him to be treated in Egypt. Thus, for several years, he spent every winter in Egypt, where he met Countess Bielinska. The latter, who was originally from Poland, provided him with colors and organized exhibitions of his work. Mandelbaum visited Palestine and worked in a kibbutz before returning to Krakow.
During World War I, he was suspected of being a Russian spy. He was consequently arrested and imprisoned, and was told that he would be hung. He was saved by Dr Frenkel’s intervention and was sent to convalesce in a hospital in Vienna for four years. Following his experience in prison, he suffered from psychological after-effects. When he got out of the hospital, he met Rebecca Lichtman, whom he married in a small town in Galica. In 1925, Mandelbaum arrived in Paris with his wife and son. Once again, he stayed at a hospital before moving to Montparnasse. His wife, who was a nurse, looked after him and provided for the family. In 1938, he visited London, where his paintings were a resounding success.
On July 16, 1942, during the Vel d’Hiv roundup, Ephraim Mandelbaum and his wife were arrested by French policeman. They were deported on July 24 on convoy number 42. They were both murdered by the Nazis. Their son Sam Mandel, who also became a painter, committed suicide in Paris a few years later.
Nieszawer & Princ
"Artistes juifs de l’Ecole de Paris 1905-1939"
Editons Somogy 2015