About this Collection
The Russian-born artist Ilka [Irène] Kolsky (1909–1938) worked in Paris in the 1930s. It was in Paris that she and violinist Roman Totenberg became acquainted and developed a close relationship. Kolsky had just begun to establish herself as a noteworthy contributor to the genre of Expressionist woodblock printing at the time of her untimely death, before age thirty. She worked in a variety of media including pen-and-ink, watercolor, and charcoal, but her most significant and best remembered work is her woodblock prints.
In 2006 Roman Totenberg wrote the following brief description: “Ilka Kolski [sic] was a young student at the Paris School for the Arts. Her parents were Russian Jews who lived in Germany after the revolution. Both were very intellectual people. Her father was a medical doctor, and her mother finished at one of the universities in Germany. Ilka had shown talent from an early age, and there are many drawings she did while in high school. The father died before Hitler took over, and Ilka and her mother moved to Paris in 1931 or 1932. Ilka became very Parisian and loved to draw streets and people of Paris. Her mother and my mother became friends, and we shared an apartment in Rue de Dardanelle in Neuilly. Ilka died of infection which prevailed in Paris at the time. Her teachers and colleagues had tremendous respect for her work. There were some articles in art magazines about her drawings that showed a great deal of enthusiasm for her talent.”
The Roman Totenberg Collection includes several hundred examples of Kolsky’s work, a representative selection of which has been made available here.