Cover image for The art and politics of Arthur Szyk
The art and politics of Arthur Szyk
Luckert, Steven.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Washington, D.C. : United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, [2002]

Physical Description:
xiv, 136 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 32 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ND3039.S98 A4 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

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Arthur Szyk was one of the most creative and determined political activists of his time. A gifted book illustrator and illuminator, a skillful caricaturist, and a crusader for causes, this multifaceted artist ceaselessly defended the rights of Jews and advocated on their behalf.

Skilled in medieval and Persian miniature painting, Szyk redirected his artistry during World War II into political cartoons that unmasked the face of the Nazi enemy and mobilized popular opinion. His caricatures became daily fare in newspapers and magazines throughout the United States. In 1942 alone, Szyk's war-driven cartoons were published in Esquire, Collier's, Look, Liberty, Time, the Saturday Review of Literature, and the Saturday Evening Post. One magazine reported that Szyk cartoons were as popular as Betty Grable pin-ups for troops heading overseas.

The Art and Politics of Arthur Szyk places the extraordinary artist and his work into the context of the turbulent times in which he lived (1894-1951). Hundreds of illustrations -- rendered in the artist's original brilliant colors and painstakingly intricate detail -- were drawn from private and public collections around the world. The illuminations, paintings, prints, line drawings, lithographs, posters, magazine covers, and stamps are still vibrant and compelling. The political caricatures still resonate.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

The name Arthur Szyk may not be familiar to most art historians, but the curators at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum hope to remedy that with a new exhibition and catalog devoted to this little-known Jewish artist. A gifted and successful illuminator and book illustrator during the 1930s, Szyk recognized the threat of Nazism and devoted his art and career to combating it. With his pen and brush as weapons, Szyk produced scathing satirical drawings and cartoons in some of America's most popular publications, awakening millions to the realities of the Holocaust. Luckert, a historian and independent curator, provides a well-researched and detailed examination of the life of this complex and driven artist, considering him as a Jewish artist, wartime caricaturist, and, finally, Holocaust documentor. The book's illustrations aptly display Szyk's dual skills as a fine artist and a shaper of public opinion. In the end, Szyk's importance is measured less by his artistic contributions than by his unwavering efforts on behalf of Jews. Recommended for libraries with strong holdings in the Holocaust and Jewish history. Kraig A. Binkowski, Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This attractive publication was issued for an exhibition of Jewish artist Szyk's work, staged at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. Szyk is known to Jewish audiences today primarily through his sumptuous illustrations of the Passover Haggadah. The exhibition presented other, now largely forgotten, aspects of his art, notably his activity as a political satirist against Nazi Germany and its Japanese ally in WW II as well as his involvement in support of Zionism prior to and after the establishment of the Jewish State in 1948. Szyk was born in Lodz (then in Russia, now Poland) in 1894, studied in Paris from 1909 to 1913, and, when WW II began, emigrated to England and then to the US, where he died in 1951. His ornate compositions, crowded with incidents of every kind, are based on late medieval and Persian book illumination, a dash of art nouveau, but also and perhaps more improbably, a sense of the grotesque, excellently featured in his uproarious caricatures of Hitler and his acolytes. This intriguing formal language was perhaps not ideally suited for the propagandistic purposes it was intended to serve, but this is a timely, vivid, and all in all, valuable picture of Szyk's career and art. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through professionals. W. Cahn emeritus, Yale University