Yahuda Pen

( 24.05.1854 - 28.02.1937) 

was born  in the city of Novoalexandrovsk, known as Ezhereni in Yiddish.


He was orphaned at the age of thirteen and became an apprentice to a decorative painter in Dvinsk.

In 1879 he went to Saint Petersburg and took the entrance exam at the Imperial Academy of Fine Arts, but failed due to his lack of fluency in Russian. Despite lacking the necessary internal passport, he remained there and, in 1881, obtained permission to audit classes. His teachers included Pavel ChistyakovValentin Serov and Mikhail Vrubel.

He was eventually admitted as a student and graduated in 1886.


He returned to Dvinsk for a time, then moved to Riga, where he became involved in the local artistic circles and met Ilya Repin, who had an estate along the Dvina that was a meeting place for the Peredvizhniki.


In 1891, on his friends' advice, he settled in Vitebsk and, a year later, opened a private art school that was the first Jewish art school in Belarus.

He catered to many poor students who were unable to gain admission to the larger academies; all they needed was a sponsor. Pen's pupils included Ilya MazelYefim MininOskar Meshchaninov, Marc ChagallOssip ZadkinePeter YavichLeon GaspardEl Lissitzky, and Isaac Lichtenstein. The school was in operation until 1919. At that time, thanks to the efforts of Chagall, he became a teacher at the Vitebsk Art School.


A large part of his work consisted of paintings based upon the everyday life of common Jewish people and psychological portraits of various types found in Russian Jewish society. Thanks to these works Pen acquired a well-deserved reputation in his lifetime as a “portrayer of the Jewish way of life.


Pen was killed at his home in Vitebsk on the night of 28 February/1 March 1937. The exact circumstances of his death have never been clarified. He was buried in the Jewish cemetery there. The bronze bust on his grave has been stolen twice.


The vast majority of Pen's major works are located in Belarusian museums, a gallery devoted to his works has been created in Vitebsk. His works are also kept at the Vitebsk Museum of Modern Art and the Belarusian National Arts Museum.


Yehuda Moiseyevich Pen's work has been offered at auction multiple times, with realized prices ranging from $6,250 USD to $24,000 USD, depending on the size and medium of the artwork. The current record price for this artist at auction is $24,000 USD for "Jewish Woman Reading Tseno Ureno on the Sabbath", sold at Kestenbaum & Company in 2018. 

Yahuda Pen - Oil paintings


Oil paintings