By Douglas Feiden
Rosh Hashanah in the Jewish faith marks the birthday of the universe, the day God created Adam and Eve, the first moment in which the world was conceived, and the time that time itself, and life and love and existence, first came into being.
Starting at sunset on Sunday, the holiday celebrates the Jewish New Year, which is observed as a period of renewal and introspection, an occasion for change, sweet new beginnings and a wiping clean of the slate so the world can start anew.
It will be observed at the Sag Harbor Inn, where Chabad North Haven in the Hamptons is holding services, at Temple Adas Israel on Atlantic Avenue, and at the Conservative Synagogue of the Hamptons on the Bridgehampton-Sag Harbor Turnpike.
But in a very different way, it will also be observed at the Romany Kramoris Gallery at 41 Main Street, a venerable village jewel box that is showcasing the watercolors of the German-born Holocaust survivor Peter Lipman-Wulf, who first came to Sag Harbor in the 1960s — and until his death in 1993, never forget that he was Jewish or what he’d endured.
Branded a “decadent” by the Nazis, he fled Germany for France in 1933, only to be imprisoned in a French detention camp in Aix-en-Provence as an undesirable alien from 1939 to 1940, before fleeing, once again, to Switzerland, in 1942.
It was in the Swiss alpine wonderlands of his latest exile, and then again in Paris and the French countryside, after the war in 1945 and continuing until 1950, that Mr. Lipman-Wulf created the 23 original and rarely seen watercolors that Ms. Kramoris will be exhibiting from Saturday, October 1, to November 21.
Presented for the Jewish New Year and the beginning of the Days of Awe — a 10-day period of penitence culminating with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement — the works represent precisely what the holiday is all about: Rebirth, renewal and the creation of light from eternal darkness.
“They depict his freedom,” Ms. Kramoris says. “They’re naively pictorial, captivating, charming, engaging. Peter became a bird, released into the heights of the mountains. It was cathartic at that time for him, and for his future viewers, as he experienced open and boundless spaces, and even eternity itself.”
Out of a demonic Nazi reverence of annihilation, and the twisted collaborationist mindset of Vichy, France, that enabled it, came the flowering arbors, bucolic valleys, misty mountains, Edenic gardens and romantic street scenes that Mr. Lipman-Wulf captured so magically and which will grace Ms. Kramoris’s walls.
“We are transported, and we transcend with him into a place that is joyous and exuberant,” she said.
Barbara Lipman-Wulf, the artist’s widow, and his daughter, the artist Ghilia Lipman-Wulf, both of Sag Harbor, have selected the sampling of compositions from his years in exile as part of their ongoing efforts to manage, preserve and catalogue thousands of works from his archive.
They note that though the artist lived in perpetual fear during the war years that everything could be instantaneously obliterated, the works, mostly landscapes and streetscapes, maintain a “hopeful, luminescent quality” — and appear unscathed by the ravages of a world gone mad.
“They stand outside of time,” said Ghilia Lipman-Wulf. “Rosh Hashanah is about beginnings, and each of these watercolors was a beginning for him.”
Agreed Barbara Lipman-Wulf, “It’s an outer space experience.” She said her husband, who had a deep Jewish identity despite an agnostic outlook, always believed in new beginnings:
“He would translate the evil into the hopeful, and he knew that nature could lift you above the tribulations and tortures the Jewish people endured…. He was much more Jewish than he knew himself,” she said.