Maurice Kish, painter and poet, was born in Dvinsk, Russia (also known as Denenburg while under Russian rule) which is now known as Daugavpils, Latvia. Dvinsk was one of the leading Jewish cities in Russia in the 19th century, and a center of Jewish culture and debate. It was also a poor city where an estimated 30% of the Jewish population applied for aid in 1898. Maurice Kish came to the United States from Russia as a young man and worked as a decorative painter in a glass factory before establishing himself as an easel painter. Like many artists at work in the 1930s, he was a labor activist whose subject matter revealed his sympathy for industrial workers. Kish often focused his attention on the massive and filthy coal plants and factories. Kish painted laborers who are dwarfed by the industrial sites and are described in the dull, dark tones indicative of the harsh monotony of their lives.