Ryback was born in the Ukraine and attended the Kiev Art Institute. He worked with El Lissitzky on an ethnographic mission to record the life and artifacts of Jews in small Russian towns. He was a member of avant-garde movements in Russia and later in Germany. Ryback experimented with a modified form of Cubism, using structures to express emotions while pursuing his interest in folklore (S.T. Goodman, ed., Russian Jewish Artists, New York, 1995, p. 218).