Ryback devoted his entire career to the portrayal of Jewish subjects, and his efforts to combine ethnographic sources with contemporary styles contributed to the evolution of a unique Jewish expression. Between 1911-1916, he attended the Kiev Art Institute. The motifs he recorded and observed on an ethnographic expedition with Lissitzky, sponsored by the Jewish Historical and Ethnographic Society around 1916, formed the basis for his later artworks and theories. He advocated the development of a contemporary style whose formal elements were grounded in religious/folk art. He settled in Paris in 1926 where "his art became increasingly sentimental, primarily depicting scenes from the childhood world he simultaneously loved and rejected" (New York, The Jewish Museum, Russian Jewish Artists, 1996, pp. 218).
The memories of the 1880s pogroms lingered in the minds of Ryback's family members and haunted their otherwise happy existence. "From this constant knowledge of the dreadful fate that might at any moment break loose upon the community to which he was so devoted, Ryback acquired a sense of precariousness of his way of life and of the sheer fragility of the mere present. Ryback died in Paris on the eve of a one-man show at the Wildenstein Gallery, his work at that time remained relatively unknown to the Western World".(C. Roth, Jewish Art, Jerusalem, 1971, pp. 288-289).