Kanelba enrolled in the School of Fine Arts in Warsaw in 1918. After a period in Vienna where he took classes at the School of Fine Arts. He returned to Warsaw in 1923 and married Maria Wohl, the daughter of a rich Polish industrialist. Kanelba and his wife arrived in Paris in 1925. From that same year, Kanelba regularly exhibited his work at the Salon d’Automne, Salon des Indépendants, Salon des Tuileries, and Salon de l’Escalier. He often visited Pont-Aven where he painted alongside other Polish artists. After Kanelba’s work was exhibited in Bordeaux, he met the collector and art critic Marcel Bernheim at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune. He was also introduced to Léopold Zborovski. Both dealers helped promote his work. The first important Kanelba exhibition took place at the Zborovski gallery in 1928. André Salmon wrote the catalogue’s introduction. His works were then exhibited in Berlin, Warsaw, and Paris.
He returned to Poland in 1933. One year later, Kanelba, his wife, and their six-year old son left Paris for the United Kingdom, where he exhibited his work throughout the country. In 1937, a solo exhibition took place at the Alex Reid & Lefevre Gallery in London. From 1937 to 1951, Kanelba often traveled to the United States, where his paintings were a success. In 1951, he settled in America, and acquired American citizenship in 1957. He was commissioned to produce work for the French, Polish, and British governments. In 1955, he painted the portrait of the Queen Elizabeth II.
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.