Thursday, April 17, 2014

Books in Yiddish: Arthur Szyk (Biography)

by S. L. Shneiderman

    Arthur Szyk (Biography)
    by S. L. Shneiderman
    ©1980 by S. L. Shneiderman
    I. L. Peretz Publishing House
    31, Allenby Str.
    Tel-Aviv, Israel

 

 

 

Arthur Szyk, the Polish-born American artist found his true calling in the medieval art of miniaturists and illuminators of sacred texts. In his exquisitely detailed miniatures, he depicted the struggle for the rebirth of the Jewish state, the sufferings of the Jews under Nazi occupation, and the heroic resistance in the ghettos. His illuminations of sacred texts include his Hagaddah (1956), which the Times Literary Supplement declared "worthy to be placed among the most beautiful of books that the hand of man has ever produced." 

Szyk was a fighter from his childhood in Lodz in 1894, when he was expelled from high school for making anti-czarist sketches. His miniatures frequently expressed his fervent Zionism and Polish pride. He did not just fight through his art either. He fought in the trenches with the Polish army in World War I and joined the anti-semitic white Russian units of the Polish Bolshevik war of 1921 under an assumed name to save Jewish lives from pogroms. Szyk is most famous in America for the war against Nazi Germany and its allies that he waged with his venomous cartoons that were featured on the covers of Collier's, Time, and Esquire and were widely popular with soldiers. His efforts prompted Eleanor Roosevelt to declare him a "one man army against Hitler."

S.L. Shneiderman, a close friend of Szyk, based his biography on years of faithfully recorded conversations with the artist, Szyk's personal notes and archives, and the unpublished diaries of his wife Julia. Although an English version was never published, an English translation was commissioned by Japanese professor Rinjiro Sodei.

Links

The Szyk Society--A group dedicated to "rekindling and sustaining an interest in the art and messages of Arthur Szyk." The site includes more information about Szyk, exhibits, and works for sale. The Szyk Society also has access to the Arthur Szyk Archives.

Project Judaica-Includes a brief biography of Szyk and images of his print of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, his History of Israel coverpage, and a patriotic Polish miniature.

A Handwritten Note from Szyk to Hitler.