Ryback was born into a Hassidic family and left his parents’ home at a young age. He took drawing classes in his hometown and studied at the Academy of Kiev between 1911 and 1916. When the revolution broke out in 1917, the central committee for Jewish culture in Kiev ordered propaganda posters and street decorations from him. At that time, he met El Lissitzky. Together with the latter, he participated in an expedition to Ukrainian villages, financed by the Jewish Society of Ethnography and History, whose purpose was to produce a series of paintings on Jewish cemeteries and synagogues. In 1918, he lived in Moscow where he taught painting.
In 1921, he left for Berlin. In collaboration with the Yiddish poet Leib Kvitko, he published stories for children (USSR state editions) and an album of thirty lithographs entitled Shtetl (1923). In 1924, he published the Jewish Types of Ukraine, an album reminiscent of Cubism and Expressionism that recounts the threatening atmosphere of a pogrom. In Berlin, he became a member of the Novembergruppe and exhibited his work at the Secession. At that time, he produced supremacist engravings for the Yiddish avant-garde journal Albatros.
In 1925, he was invited to return to Russia by the Jewish Theater in Moscow, and designed sets and costumes for I.L. Peretz’s play In Folisch Oyf Der Keit. The same year, he spent time in the Jewish agricultural colonies in Ukraine, where he produced drawings representing everyday life. These drawing were published when he arrived in Paris in 1926. Between 1928 and 1934, Ryback exhibited his work in Paris, The Hague, Amsterdam, Brussels, Rotterdam, Antwerp, and Philadelphia. His last exhibition took place at the Wildenstein gallery in Paris. His works are in the Issachar Ryback museum in Bat Yam, Israel.
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.