Larger Type
Smaller Type

Search Collections

Malcah Zeldis Portrait

Malcah Zeldis

Also Known as: Mildred Brightman

Born:
New York, New York 1931

Active in:

  • Detroit, Michigan

Photo Caption:
Courtesy Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Luce Artist Quote

“Art is a birth . . . you have to struggle, knowing absolutely nothing, putting down the most primitive jabs, and learning something each time . . . That’s the way a painting is. No one else can teach you who you are.” Malcah Zeldis, quoted in Julia Weissman, “Malcah Zeldis: A Jewish Folk Artist in the American Tradition,” The National Jewish Monthly, September 1975


Biography

Born in Michigan. A self-taught artist who did not begin painting until her late thirties. Famous for her folk-art paintings that reflect both urban and Jewish traditions.

Nora Panzer, ed. Celebrate America in Poetry and Art (New York and Washington, D.C.: Hyperion Paperbacks for Children in association with the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 1994)

Additional Biographies

Luce Artist Biography

Malcah Zeldis felt that she just “wasn’t talented enough” to paint as a young girl (Julia Weissman, “Malcah Zeldis: A Jewish Folk Artist in the American Tradition,” The National Jewish Monthly, September 1975). When she was eighteen, she moved to Israel to live on a kibbutz and painted a few small images during her free time. A well-known Israeli artist, Aaron Giladi, praised her work and encouraged her to paint larger canvases. She was so overwhelmed by this, however, that she stopped painting altogether. (Willa S. Rosenberg, “Malcah, Her Life,” The Clarion, Summer 1988) In 1958, Zeldis returned to the United States and settled in Brooklyn. Her confidence in her art grew and she began to create bigger, bolder paintings based on childhood memories, historical figures, and family events.