Past Exhibits

SyzkDuring his lifetime (1894-1951), Arthur Szyk - pronounced "Schick" - earned fame in Poland, France, Canada, the United States, and Israel for his exquisite book illustrations, religious art, miniatures, political caricatures, and postage stamp designs. An activist-artist, Szyk conceived of art as a means to make a case for social justice. Szyk, who was trained in art in France but identified himself as a Pole and a Jew, documented the atrocities of Hitler, Hirohito, and Mussolini and caricaturized these fascist leaders. In art, he worked for a Jewish homeland but also championed displaced and oppressed Poles, Brits, Native Americans, African Americans, and Indonesian Muslims (facing prejudice from the Dutch in the 1940s). Szyk's magnum opus, the Szyk Haggadah, debuted in London in 1939. Following its publication, Szyk immigrated to the United States in 1940 in the wake of the Holocaust.

Hailed the greatest miniaturist since the 16th century, Szyk became virtually forgotten following his death in 1951. Until now, you may never even have heard of him. The extraordinary output of Arthur Szyk will be the subject of the 23rd annual Fox-Adler Lecture to be delivered by Irvin Ungar, foremost Szyk scholar and art dealer and major proponent of a Szyk renaissance. In a recent interview for AIGA (the professional association for design), Ungar notes that Szyk's "unique style . . . combines use of color with a miniaturist's attention to detail[;] Szyk departs from all schools of art and yet embraces many of them." To Ungar, "Szyk's prodigious output—illustrated books, and magazine and newspaper political art, as well as nationalistic portraits and illuminated religious works—would together qualify him as a school of art in his own right."

These four cases illuminate Szyk’s multifaceted oeuvre—a "school of art in [its] own right." Case 1 entitled "Portfolio Extraordinaire" showcases Szyk’s artistic range and the extraordinary range of texts he illustrated: fairy tales to the Bible, portraits of George Washington to postage stamps. Case 2 entitled "Illustrator of Tales for Adults and Children" showcases Szyk’s renowned illustrations for Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales alongside The Canterbury Tales. Case 3, "Preserving the Faith, Defending the Faith," features Szyk's role as defender of justice. Caricatures of Hitler in The New Order (1841) show Szyk to be a "hater of hatred" while his illustrations for The Book of Job and The Haggadah demonstrate pride in his Jewish heritage during a time when it was dangerous to be Jewish. Cases 3 and 4 document Szyk's Zionist efforts. Case 4, "Szyk and Philately," features postage labels for the Zionist movement as well as stamps for Israel, the Jewish state Szyk was so proud of, and Liberia, the African nation America helped to found.

This exhibit was mounted by Catherine J. Golden, Professor of English; Wendy Anthony, Special Collections Curator; and Lollie Abramson, Coordinator of Jewish Life, and will be on display in the Harris Lobby in the Scribner Library through the end of September.

Please check out our Flickr page for images from the exhibition.

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