Arthur SzykArtist, Jew, Pole

Arthur SzykArtist, Jew, Pole

Joseph P. Ansell

Print publication date: 2021

ISBN: 9781874774945

Publisher: Liverpool University Press


Artist and illustrator Arthur Szyk was a Polish Jew whose work was overwhelmingly Jewish in theme and content. The mission he set himself was to use his artistic talents to serve humanity and the Jewish people. His work as a political artist went well beyond a narrow definition of the Jewish cause. He is best known among Jews for his illustrated Haggadah, but the majority of his work deals with contemporary political themes and social causes. In Poland, Szyk promoted the causes of freedom, toleration, and human dignity. He believed that as a Jewish artist he had a responsibility to speak for all minorities. He worked for years on behalf of the Polish government in an effort to strengthen the Jews' position. Szyk left Europe in 1940 and arrived in the United States later the same year. Determined to use his art for political purposes, he crusaded against the Nazis. Convinced that Hitler would not stop with the Jews but would suppress all freedom-loving people, he supported the war effort through his striking propaganda images of the German and Japanese armies, to great effect. After the war he turned his efforts to promoting the idea of a Jewish homeland in Israel. In every phase of his career, one finds Szyk looking to the past but hoping for the future; he believed that art could make a difference in the world, politically and socially. This biography makes a singular contribution to the history of Jewish art and of Polish–Jewish relations in the first half of the twentieth century.