JOHN H. LESS
The Jewish Museum of New Jersey presents, "Berlin - Shanghai - Newark:
The Odyssey and Art of John H. Less," a dramatic exhibition of paintings that primarily focuses on the
artist's life as a German Holocaust refugee in Shanghai from 1940 to 1947. Less vividly portrays his uprooting from a culture
in which he and his family believed themselves to be at home and secure to their abrupt transformation into complete outsiders.
John H. Less was born in Berlin, Germany, in 1923 where he began his art
studies. His artistic talents were recognized at an early age - by 10, he began drawing for two German newspapers. This was
not to last.
Because of the Nazi persecution of Jews, Less fled Germany in 1940 with his parents and sister. After
an arduous three week journey across Russia, Siberia and Manchuria, the family arrived in Shanghai where they found refuge
from the Holocaust. The journey involved passage on the Trans-Siberian Railway, China Far East Railway and a Japanese steamer.
The Less family was crowded by the Japanese into the Hongkou Ghetto, a restricted area located in a heavily war-damaged
section of the city already inhabited by a 100,000 impoverished Chinese people and some 20,000 stateless Jewish refugees.
The Less family lived in one room. The family spent the next seven years struggling to survive
and maintain hope. During this time, despite travel restrictions and his youth, Less was able to help support his family as
a commercial artist for major advertising studios located outside the ghetto.
The Less family arrived in Newark
in 1947, and he found work as a graphic artist for the Bamberger Department Store chain. Less rose to be the vice president
and creative director for graphics and broadcasting with responsibility for all of the chain's print media and advertising.
Less married Miriam (Mia) Maier in 1950. The couple rented an apartment in East
Orange, where they lived with their son, Steven (born in 1953). Shortly before their daughter, Deborah, was born in 1955,
they moved into their own house in Millburn.
After retiring in 1982, Less worked independently, producing commercial
art for major retailers such as the May Company. In his later years Less focused on painting, his life-long passion.
John and Miriam Less relocated to the Winchester Gardens in Maplewood in 2005. Less, who passed away
in 2011, is survived by his wife, children and grandchildren.