Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Arthur SzykArtist, Jew, Pole$

Joseph P. Ansell

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9781874774945

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781874774945.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM LIVERPOOL SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.liverpool.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Liverpool University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in LSO for personal use. Subscriber: null; date: 04 July 2022

From George Washington to the League of Nations

From George Washington to the League of Nations

(p.62) From George Washington to the League of Nations
Arthur Szyk

Joseph P. Ansell

Liverpool University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter marks a period in Arthur Szyk's life which was spent in increased travel, usually due to exhibitions of his work. However, the worldwide economic crisis that followed the 1929 crash drastically reduced the market for elaborate, deluxe illustrated books, and speculative printings like that of the Statute of Kalisz were no longer feasible; consequently, most of Szyk's projects, for some time to come, were self-motivated rather than commissioned. Yet he did undertake some of his major projects during this period. His interest in America, for instance, was realized on a grand scale in his next major project — an extended series of miniature paintings devoted to the history of the American Revolution. In addition, motivated by his belief in the goals of the organization, Szyk began an illuminated version of the Covenant of the League of Nations. Like the manuscript of the Statute of Kalisz, this work employs historical scenes and portraits as well as allegorical and symbolic motifs.

Keywords:   United States, American Revolution, George Washington, League of Nations, Szyk exhibitions, Paris, Poland, interwar years

DURING 1929 THE SZYKS travelled in Poland, exhibiting the Statute of Kalisz in their home town of Łódź, in Warsaw, the nation’s capital, and in Kalisz, the town that had given its name to the laws. The Polish government was proud of Szyk’s fame in western Europe, saw that it aided its own efforts to be recognized among the modern democracies, and assisted in plans for the tour.

The themes of freedom and justice, so evident in the text and illustrations of the manuscript, were discussed in numerous newspapers and journals. One review, published in Wiadomosci Literackie while the statute was being exhibited at the Association for the Advancement of Jewish Art in Warsaw (the pre-eminent Jewish artistic institution in Poland), highlighted both the political significance and the artistic sources of the manuscript. In discussing the aesthetics of the work, the author, Mieczysław Sterling, pinpointed Szyk’s use of indigenous Polish art forms to give contemporary impact to the medievally inspired work, noting that the ornamentation was influenced both by the traditional colours of Polish cloth and by the patterns used in paper cut-out work. Thus the artist, he said, ‘does not keep his work within the framework of medieval traditions. His work is medieval in type but made contemporary.’ Sterling also examined the political and social context of the work, concluding that the document had modern as well as historical importance and that its ideas were ‘a hundred times stronger than those of a number of experienced diplomats’.1

The success of the exhibition was important both to the Polish government and to Szyk, but for very different reasons. For the regime, it helped to publicize and entrench official efforts towards the establishment of universal human rights and the liberalizing goals of the new government. For Szyk, the great popularity of the work increased his stature in a country that remained close to his heart, even (p.63) though he visited only periodically from Paris. He also benefited in a more tangible way: through the fee charged for admission to the exhibition. This new source of income in his career appeared at a most opportune moment, for the years spent on the illumination of the Statute of Kalisz, as well as the time required to travel with it, had prevented Szyk from taking on other illustration or painting projects to support himself and his family. The money received from the exhibition entrance fee helped support the Szyks both during and after the year of travelling.

There was, however, one project from the mid-1920s that helped produce some income. While he was working on the illumination of the Statute of Kalisz, Szyk created new versions of several of the paintings from his first Paris exhibition in 1922. These images, and a few on new subjects, were destined for reproduction as full-colour postcards. The majority depict biblical scenes such as the Queen of Sheba before Solomon, Susanna and the elders, David and Goliath, and Judith and Holofernes, or figures from Jewish history such as Bar Kochba (Plate 10). Notably, these last three images all depict Jewish heroes who triumphed over their enemies; Bar Kochba, in particular, was seen by many Zionists as a role model, and Szyk may have been making a subtle pro-Zionist statement within what appears to be a commercial project. Others in the group, however, do not continue this theme: they show Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, an elaborately costumed Arab dancer, and a historical wild boar hunt on M. de Monzie’s estate. (This last work was also intended to be translated into a tapestry by the Gobelins factory.2) The cards were published under the imprint ‘Éditions de la Miniature Moderne’. This company was another of the businesses Szyk founded to distribute his work and, once again, he designed a company seal to mark all of the cards. The small round seal contains a line drawing showing the artist at work, with the publisher’s name in a border surrounding the image.

From George Washington to the League of Nations

10. Postcard image of Bar Kochba (1927)

The year spent touring Poland marks the beginning of a period of increased travel for Szyk, often related to exhibitions of his work. The worldwide economic crisis that followed the 1929 crash drastically reduced the market for elaborate, deluxe illustrated books, and speculative printings like that of the Statute of Kalisz were no longer feasible; consequently, most of Szyk’s projects, for some time to come, were self-motivated rather than commissioned.

Szyk’s fourth and last exhibition in Paris was held not at a commercial establishment but at the Musée Galliera, one of the government-run museums. (Notably, this institution exhibited not only fine art but also the applied arts, thus placing (p.64) Szyk’s work in a venue not unlike the Decour gallery.) It took place in March and April 1930. Szyk was honoured to be selected; it was relatively rare for an official exhibition to be devoted to a foreign artist. Here again he exhibited the Statute of Kalisz. Also on view were the first paintings of a planned series on the great South American liberator Simón Bolívar and equestrian portraits of two Polish heroes of the modern period: Marshal Piłsudski, the first president of twentieth-century Poland and the driving force behind the political reforms of the mid-1920s; and General Skrzynecki, the leader of the Polish army during one of the nineteenth-century nationalistic insurrections.

Once again exhibition reviews were laudatory. In Le Figaro Arsène Alexandre, a longstanding supporter of Szyk’s work, wrote that these were powerful works, not a diluted imitation or pastiche. He said that they were ‘totally expressive of modern life and spirit’, while comparing brilliantly with works by sixteenth- and late fifteenth-century masters.3 As in 1928, commentary on the work continued to appear long after the two and a half weeks of the exhibition. Two months later, the magazine Notre temps published a full-page review article;4 and the following autumn (fully six months after the exhibit) it was discussed in Wiadomosci Literackie, the leading Warsaw journal of Polish culture.5 The author of both pieces was Zygmund St. Klingsland, the same Polish writer who had previously written about Szyk in this and other Polish publications. Both texts stress the monumental quality Szyk achieved within a few square centimetres, comparing his miniatures to immense frescoes in their power and grandeur. The French review also discussed many other aspects of Szyk’s work, among them the depth of his research for all the projects he undertook and his ability to remain true to the spirit of an idea or an era while taking certain liberties with history—in other words, his genius in precisely distilling and capturing the essence of the players and events.

Szyk’s interest in America, already indicated in the border decoration and the portraits adorning the English translation of the Statute of Kalisz, was realized on a grand scale in his next major project. This was an extended series of miniature paintings devoted to the history of the American Revolution. Probably begun in late 1929 or 1930, they were completed in 1932; the majority of the paintings were executed in Paris, although a few were done in Poland. As always, Szyk began the project with extensive historical research—in this case not only to ensure visual accuracy, but also, and more importantly, to ensure that he understood fully the events he was portraying. Congressman Sol Bloom, director of the United States (p.65) George Washington Bicentennial Commission, established to commemorate the anniversary of the statesman’s birth, provided some of the information; additional material came from the Musée de Guerre in Paris.6 The resultant thirty-eight paintings that comprise ‘George Washington and his Times’ are a series of portraits and historical scenes.

While maintaining historical veracity in the details, Szyk sought, through the use of symbols and artistic conventions, both to compress history and to capture the ideas and ideals of the participants. For example, each of the four individual portraits of George Washington stresses certain attributes of the historical figure— military leader, statesman, private citizen, and father of his country (see Plate 13). Two of the other portrait subjects—Kościuszko and Pułaski—are particularly important as they illustrate the long tradition of Poles fighting for freedom and the homage Szyk paid to America as a symbol of freedom. In the sequence of images, Szyk placed their portraits ahead of those of all other foreign-born participants, in a prominent position following the paintings of Paul Revere, Martha Washington, and Benjamin Franklin, and the four portraits of George Washington. Additionally, the two Poles are represented in the most dynamic poses in any of the formal portraits; this deliberate contrast of depiction subtly heightens the importance of the Polish contribution to American independence.

From George Washington to the League of Nations

13. George Washington from ‘George Washington and his Times’ (1932) from a collotype print; original 7" × 6.2" (175 mm × 155 mm)

The artist also manipulates history when he wants to convey an idea. In one of the historical scenes, Szyk brings together participants at a time not historically correct in order to strengthen the impact: he places Washington at the scene when Lafayette was wounded during the battle of Brandywine, thus linking the two leaders, even though they were with different parts of the army at the time. Washington’s detached pose may be read as further evidence of his presence as a symbol, rather than as a participant.

One of the most noteworthy symbolic representations in the series occurs in the painting The Struggle on Concord Bridge (Plate 14). Here, Szyk has chosen to highlight minority participation in the struggle for freedom by showing a black man at the very front of the scene. The figure probably depicts Prince Estabrook (Easter-brooks), one of the first American casualties of the fighting. Yet the prominence given this figure within the composition betokens more than mere historical accuracy. Rather, it reminds the viewer that black Americans not only fought in the War of Independence but also gave up their lives in the pursuit of national and individual freedom. The image is especially significant in that it was painted at a time when popular history ignored the contributions of blacks.

From George Washington to the League of Nations

14. The Struggle on Concord Bridge from ‘George Washington and his Times’ (1932) from a collotype print; original 6.25" × 4.6" (159 mm × 115 mm)

(p.66) This painting is the first of many Szyk illustrations throughout his career which include black people as significant participants in the continual fight for liberty, equality, and justice. While on one occasion those pictured are black Africans, most are African Americans. Szyk may have been drawn to the plight of black Americans as a parallel to the situation faced by Poland’s Jews. Although there were significant differences in the history and status of the two groups, the most notable being the history of slavery for blacks in America, both were minorities that were persecuted for who they were and were denied basic rights of citizenship.

In addition to the thirty-eight paintings in the complete series, Szyk painted other versions of several of the pieces. In these instances one finds the artist modifying a composition to increase the drama of the scene and to ensure clarity in reading the narrative. For example, one version of the painting entitled Fort Moultrie depicted one of a group of soldiers leaping forward to rescue a flag; the version actually included in the series shows the hero performing this dramatic act alone, thereby concentrating attention on the action at the core of the narrative and emphasizing its drama and bravery.

The paintings draw upon many disparate sources. They derive certain poses, backgrounds, and formats from eighteenth-century historical paintings and prints as well as from nineteenth-century representations of the American Revolution. Szyk’s depiction of Washington Crossing the Delaware owes a debt to Emanuel Leutze’s famous painting of the same scene and both, with their improbable standing figure of Washington, follow a recognized convention of history painting. And the schematized treatment of plants in several paintings is influenced by Persian miniatures. Other elements are once again drawn from the medieval period. These include a skewed, forced perspective and a hierarchical scaling of figures in which the most important characters are larger than those who are not as important to the theme. This convention is one Szyk had used in several previous works, among them the illustrations for La Tentation de Saint Antoine, the Charlemagne manuscript, and the painting of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

The compositions are tightly structured and, in all cases, the artist has placed the action in such close proximity to the viewer that he or she is a participant in the war or only a few feet from the portrait subjects. Szyk achieves unity of effect in each painting through an elaborate repetition and modulation of colours and a careful delineation of every figure and detail. Although the figures are fully rendered, there is no single light source. The characters exist independently. It should be remembered that Szyk’s goal was to chronicle events and communicate a message, not to describe a scene naturalistically. The paintings have a frieze-like quality. Even though the figures are modelled, they are compressed into so shallow a space as to (p.67) render their physical existence impossible; they are all attached to each other and to the background. However, in several of the images, he has attempted to indicate deep space and the atmospheric effects of battle through the use of thin washes of white and by rendering some of the distant figures in translucent watercolour, in contrast to the opaque paint used to depict those closest to the viewer. Interestingly, this variation in painting technique is uncharacteristic of Szyk and unlike most of his work.

The pieces in the series vary slightly in size and proportion; however, most are approximately 4½ inches wide by 6½ inches high. The paintings are rendered on a heavy, smooth white board, with the exception of the two matched portraits of George and Martha Washington, which are painted on the same light brown paper as the Statute of Kalisz. This pair of portraits stands out in another way as well: they share an extremely elaborate decorative border which is antique in appearance, employing arabesques and rosettes; its several, carefully modulated tones of blue and ochre/ orange complement the traditional, formal poses of the subjects as well as the lavish, intricately patterned fabrics, wall treatments, and furniture which surround them.

By contrast, the majority of the paintings are presented within a grey, monochrome border of zigzag stripes punctuated with stars and set off by gold lines; the frame is at once modern (almost ‘streamlined’ in effect) and official or military. This second border design provides another example of Szyk’s efforts to connect Poland’s commitment to and struggle for freedom with that of the United States. The pattern, which derives from the braid on the uniforms of Polish military officers,7 was also used as a decorative border on the miniature depicting the death of Berek Joselewicz in the first section of the Statute of Kalisz. (This page, a later addition to the manuscript, was created in 1930, while Szyk was working on the Washington series.) Although Szyk’s intended message in repeating the pattern in an American context is unclear—it could have been chosen for its military appearance or its symbolic function—it remains a subtle link between the two countries.8

The paintings were first shown in 1931 at the Exposition Coloniale Internationale in Paris, where twenty-one of them were exhibited in the United States pavilion, a replica of Washington’s home at Mount Vernon. Although a list of the specific paintings displayed is unavailable, they included portraits of Washington and Franklin, among others, as well as some of the historical scenes. Another (p.68) important feature of the pavilion’s exhibitions, fourteen items relating to Kościuszko and Pułaski, also documented the Polish contribution to American independence.9 Together with Szyk’s artistic tribute, they provide a strong statement about the long and continued fellowship of the two nations in the crusade for freedom.10

In 1932, probably to coincide with the George Washington bicentennial celebrations and to capitalize on the attendant publicity, reproductions of this series were printed in Vienna by Max Jaffe Verlag. The printing process used, called collotype, produces images with clear colour and grain as fine as that of a photograph, yielding reproductions which look very close to original paintings. The technology is extremely delicate and not only requires great skill on the part of the printers but also produces only limited numbers of reproductions. Each set was sold in a blue leather portfolio box stamped in gold. A brief, unsigned introductory essay, which discussed Szyk’s approach to the subject, was also included. The essay stated that the artist’s symbolic rather than literal treatment ‘demands an active rather than a passive appreciation’.11 The concluding paragraph highlights the underlying, politically charged objectives inherent in these works and in so much of Szyk’s art:

Mr Szyk maintains that an essential purpose of art is the expression of the ideas and ideals which have governed the development of the human race, and hence, as is natural, he has devoted himself untiringly to historical and traditional subjects, stressing the themes of peace and freedom. The series of paintings … in this portfolio was conceived as a tribute to the memory of Washington and the events in which he figured, offered by the Old World to the New.12

In addition to the introductory essay, explanatory captions, providing symbolic as well as narrative information about each scene or portrait, were printed inside the ‘mats’ or paper frames that overlay each page of image and text. All the pieces were ready for framing. These boxed editions sold for $150 each,13 and were a deluxe, collector’s item in the same vein as the facsimile edition of the Statute of Kalisz.

In the meantime, Szyk had created the illustrations for his first work to be published in the United States—Ludwig Lewisohn’s The Last Days of Shylock, (p.69) published by Harper & Brothers in 1931 (a French edition was published the following year).14 Lewisohn, an ardent Zionist after a mid-1920s visit to Palestine, lived mostly in Paris from 1924 to 1940 and he and Szyk would probably have moved in the same circles.

Based on Shakespeare’s play The Merchant of Venice, Lewisohn’s novel begins after Shylock’s trial, and, following a flashback to his early life, traces his wanderings and further tribulations. Making Shylock into a positive figure, rather than the negative Jewish character seen by Christians in Shakespeare’s text, Lewisohn has him travel east from Venice, where he eventually gets involved in Jewish colonies in Palestine—becoming, in the words of one critic, ‘a good Zionist’.15

The book’s theme, to quote from a contemporary advertisement, is that of a ‘faith which rises again and again from indignity and oppression’.16 Moreover, Lewisohn sought to show his readers that action was the only choice for the Jewish people and that Israel was the only place where Jews would be in their own land, rather than living as a minority among other peoples; to ‘remind the politically attuned that a place of escape had once again become a necessity’.17 Like the first contemporary work of fiction Szyk had illustrated, Benoit’s Puits de Jacob, this one, too, demonstrated the importance of acknowledging and drawing strength from one’s Jewish identity, as well as pressing the validity of Zionist tenets.

The twelve pen and ink illustrations combine Szyk’s interests in detail and elaborate patterning with the precise, delicate line work he had used during the 1920s in book-plate designs for several patrons. Several factors are likely to have contributed to his choice of technique. First, the book was not issued in a limited, deluxe edition, and therefore colour reproductions would not have been practical. This was especially true at a time when publishers were controlling costs in response to financial uncertainties. Also, the drawings are intended to look like engravings; the figures, patterned fabrics, and architectural settings are created by an accumulation of individual and cross-hatched lines and are decidedly antique in appearance, befitting a historical novel set in the early sixteenth century and blending with the archaic language of the text. Like the illustrations for Esther, those for The Last Days of Shylock contain a wealth of decoration, covering virtually every figure, building, or object and producing an all-over patterning in the images. Combined with a drawing technique of thin black lines on white paper, the resulting (p.70) illustrations lack grey tones to indicate distance and some are decipherable only through careful study at close proximity.

Each drawing is framed by a different decorative border. These consist primarily of variations on diamond and zigzag patterns, though sometimes the design reinforces the mood of the illustration. The most noticeable example of this is the design surrounding a drawing of Jessica, Shylock’s daughter, in a madonna-like pose. This border contains the only curved elements in any of the patterns and is embellished with plant forms, creating a decidedly traditional, ‘feminine’ appearance.

Szyk signed these illustrations differently from his other works. Ordinarily, he printed his name, the date, and the place in one of the lower corners of the image or on the paper just below a painting’s decorative frame. In this case, he designed a small banner to hold this information. The device, which seems to have been borrowed from heraldic emblems, is floated in front of the scene, usually in an unobtrusive position, in eleven of the twelve illustrations. In the remaining drawing (the fifth in the series), Szyk printed his name on the façade of a building, adopting the form of classical architectural inscriptions, including pronounced serifs on the letters. The legend reads ‘ARTHVR SZYK FECIT’: ‘Arthur Szyk created [it]’. The artist is playfully injecting himself into the image, as well as making the reader hunt for the signature that is more easily seen in the other drawings.

Shortly after the publication of this book, the Szyks travelled to Geneva at the invitation of the League of Nations. Szyk held high hopes for the achievement of world peace through the organization, and was extremely proud to be the first painter named as a guest of the League. (He seems to have been a member of the collaborateurs temporaires, a group of intellectuals invited to observe the League’s disarmament deliberations.18)

Motivated by his belief in the goals of the organization, Szyk began an illuminated version of the Covenant of the League of Nations. Like the manuscript of the Statute of Kalisz, this work employs historical scenes and portraits as well as allegorical and symbolic motifs. The first page is crowned with a large miniature depicting a madonna-like woman enthroned in the midst of men, women, and children of all races. This figure, representing peace, is holding an olive branch in her left hand and gestures to the assembled group with her right; a dove is perched atop her throne. To ensure that the symbolism is clear, Szyk has placed the word pax in a decorative medallion on her chest. Immediately beneath the throne is a (p.71) skeletal figure in a German army uniform: even within an image dedicated to peace there lurks the spectre of war. The other pictorial elements on the page also refer to war: the two illuminated initials and a scene that runs across the bottom of the page depict battles, and Szyk has included another skeleton in the decoration between the columns of French and English text. All of these symbols combine to remind the viewer that the League’s existence grew from the recent world war. The theme of peace in constant struggle with war and other evils permeates the illustrations. Other major themes are the brotherhood of man and hope for the future. These are evident not only in the ethnically and racially diverse group surrounding the figure of peace but also on several other pages as well. For example, on a page honouring Woodrow Wilson, a founder of the League, Szyk painted small family groups depicting various races (Native American, African, Asian, and Caucasian) in the corners around a circular formal portrait of the American president (Plate 15). In all four images Szyk has included young children, representing the promise of future generations raised in peace. The project was later abandoned because of what he perceived as the League’s hypocrisy and ineffectiveness.19 However, the few completed pages were exhibited on several occasions and elicited strong praise. (Several of the unfinished pages exist in pencil drawing, some with sepia ink outline, in varying degrees of completeness.)

From George Washington to the League of Nations

15. Woodrow Wilson from the League of Nations Covenant

During his several months’ stay in Geneva, Szyk also held an exhibition of his work at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire. It was held under the patronage of the Polish foreign minister, Auguste Zaleski. The Poles must have been pleased to have this opportunity to present Szyk’s work, with its message of freedom and human rights, and to point to Poland’s long tradition in this arena, in such close proximity to the home of the new international organization. The exhibit was essentially the same one seen in Paris during the previous year. In addition to the Statute of Kalisz, the Bolívar paintings, and some pen and ink drawings, portions of the Washington series and the first illuminated pages of the League of Nations Covenant were included. A review of the exhibition in the Journal de Genève began by calling the collection ‘quite simply stunning’, and continued to exclaim that the artist was possessed of ‘such rich imagination and such perfect technique’ as to be compared favourably with the illuminators of the Middle Ages. And, in referring to Szyk’s self-effacing statement in the Statute of Kalisz that it was the work of ‘a humble disciple of the great illuminators of France’, the writer countered: ‘Mr Szyk is not the “humble illuminator” which he says, he is an absolute master of his art.’20

(p.72) During this period Szyk also had contact in Geneva with Ignacy Paderewski, the famous pianist and composer who became the first prime minister of Poland after the First World War. The two men were united by a bond of strong Polish nationalism and they discussed various issues related to Polish politics. Also, Paderewski was quite familiar with Szyk’s artistic creations: he had earlier purchased a copy of the Statute of Kalisz. In the course of their friendly conversations, Paderewski is supposed to have referred to the artist’s beautiful and stylish wife as ‘double Szyk’, humorously playing on the similarity in pronunciation between ‘chic’ and ‘Szyk’.21

After this exhibition the Szyks returned to Poland, where at the end of 1931 the Polish government presented Szyk with the Gold Cross of Merit for his contributions to the nation through his art. The award was specifically occasioned by his recent exhibitions in Paris and Geneva, as well as by his renowned illumination of the Statute of Kalisz. Government ministers recognized Szyk’s professional fame in western Europe as evidenced by the exhibitions; but, perhaps more significantly, they realized that they were able to use the manuscript of the Statute as a vehicle to convey an important political message to their own citizens and to the international community. In fact, the official certificate verifying the award says that it was given ‘for merit in the sphere of propaganda in the field of art’.22

Around the same time Szyk formed another of his publishing enterprises. Ostensibly organized to print reproductions of his work, the Co-operative Publishing Association of the Work of Arthur Szyk Ltd in Lwów was a subscription society that provided the artist with money for living expenses during these difficult years. Looking forward to better times, the plan was to repay contributors with the income from the sale of reproductions of Szyk’s work.23 As usual, Szyk designed a seal for the company. The pen and ink drawing shows a very formal self-portrait, with the Polish eagle emblazoned on the artist’s chest and a menorah supported by lions behind his head. He is holding a brush and palette. The circular border enclosing the image contains the name of the association in both Hebrew and Polish, the text as well as the image demonstrating Szyk’s dual allegiances: to his religion and to his country.

(p.73) Throughout the next few years the Szyks continued to travel, mostly within Poland, although they returned to Paris a few times.24 There were also two major trips further afield—to England and the United States. Yet Szyk still seems to have thought of himself as living in Paris; he had a French identity card as late as 1933 and an autobiographical statement of the same year, although written in Łódź, gives his residence as Paris, care of the Polish embassy.

While in Paris in early 1932 Szyk organized, along with the Polish Jewish writer and editor of Le Juif polonais Stanisław Londyński, a Polish Jewish Committee of Good Will. The group was a late counterpart to similar committees that had existed in the United States between 1929 and 1931, designed to marshal expatriate Polish Jewish support for Poland’s interests in the international community. These committees were the result of an official government policy rather than a spontaneous expression of feeling, and Szyk’s participation in the French body is further witness to his direct relationship with the Polish government and his efforts to strengthen Jewish support of Poland.25


(1) Mieczysław Sterling, ‘Statut kaliski Szyka’, Wiadomosci Literackie, 12 May 1929, 4.

(2) This information is printed on the reverse side of the card. It is unclear whether the tapestry project was realized. It appears that Glemby helped underwrite the postcard project and the creation of new versions of some earlier paintings. (See Szyk’s 1927 diary, March summary and entry for 23 April, among others.) A set of these cards is in the collection of the Bibliothèque Polonaise, Paris.

(3) Arsène Alexandre, ‘La Vie artistique’, Le Figaro, 3 Apr. 1930, 6.

(4) Z. St. Klingsland, ‘Les Beaux Arts: les enluminures d’Arthur Szyk’, Notre temps, 15 June 1930, 79–80.

(5) Z. St. Klingsland, ‘Wystawy paryskie’, Wiadomosci Literackie, 12 Oct. 1930, 3.

(6) This information is included in the introductory panel on display with the paintings at the Roosevelt Museum and Library in Hyde Park, New York.

(7) I am grateful to Professor Mary Cygan, of the University of Connecticut at Stamford, for calling this to my attention.

(8) This same border—in red, white, and blue—was used on a 1941 portrait of George Washington, thus completing its Americanization and eliminating its Polish connotation.

(9) T. Kosciuszko—C. Pulaski: Portraits and Souvenirs of General Tadeusz Kosciuszko and General Casimir Pulaski at Washington House, Exposition Coloniale Internationale, Paris, 1931.

(10) This may be seen as part of a multifaceted effort on the part of the Poles during the early 1930s to establish themselves as a modern democracy in the eyes of the West.

(11) Introduction, George Washington and his Times (Vienna: Max Jaffe, 1932), 1.

(13) This price is quoted in a 1977 letter from Arthur Jaffe (son of Max Jaffe) to Alexandra Braciejowski, the artist’s daughter.

(14) Ludwig Lewisohn, Les Derniers Jours de Shylock (Paris: Éditions Rieder, 1932).

(15) New York Times Book Review, 11 Jan. 1931, 9.

(16) Ibid. 13.

(17) Ralph Melnick, The Life and Work of Ludwig Lewisohn (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1998), i. 522–3. Lewisohn had visited Poland in 1924 and had observed the strength of its Jewish population in the face of oppression; see p. 372.

(18) Stephen J. Monchak, ‘Szyk Abandoned Career to Fight against Hitler’, Editor and Publisher, 6 Dec. 1941, 31.

(19) Ibid. The article quotes Szyk on the ‘sham and hypocrisy at the conference tables’.

(20) ‘Beaux-Arts: Arthur Szyk’, Journal de Genève, 15 Sept. 1931, 3.

(21) Interview, Mrs Roma Steinberg, 5 June 1989. See also Mrs Arthur Szyk, unpublished memoir, p. 35. It seems that the two men may have met earlier (in the late 1920s) in Paris. In ch. 17 of his book The Stormy Life and Work of Arthur Szyk, S. L. Shneiderman mentions that Szyk had painted a portrait of Paderewski in the 1920s, and that the former Polish prime minister had urged Szyk to travel to the United States. However, there is no other documentation of this interaction.

(23) This explanation was provided by the artist’s son-in-law, Mr Joseph Braciejowski.

(25) Daniel Stone, ‘Polish Diplomacy and the American-Jewish Community between the Wars’, Polin, 2 (1987), 82. See also ‘Polish Papers See Need of American Jews’ Friendship’, Jewish Daily Bulletin, 22 July 1930, 1: ‘Warsaw July 21—The importance for Poland of obtaining the support and sympathy of American-Jewish public opinion is emphasized in two of the country’s leading conservative dailies, the Czas of Cracow and the Slowo of Vilna.’