“I am resolved to serve my people with all my art, with all my talent, with all my knowledge.” These words, spoken by Polish-American artist Arthur Szyk in 1934 as Hitler was rising to power, define Szyk’s life work and the most important work of his life, his illustrated Haggadah.
The Haggadah, on which Szyk lavished years of work, was originally published in a limited collectors’ edition in England in 1940 as bombs were raining over the country; popular editions were published in the 1950’s and 1960’s. In 2006, Irvin Ungar, a rare book dealer who had long admired Szyk’s work, published a new limited collectors’ edition reproduced from the 48 original watercolors and accompanied by Freedom Illuminated, a companion volume.
With scholarly essays on Szyk and his art, the story of Szyk’s Haggadah and the tradition of illustrated haggadot, and the full Szyk Haggadah with notes on the art of each page, as well as information on Szyk’s other work, Freedom Illuminated gives a full picture of Szyk and his career as artist/illustrator. His highly individual style, rich with medieval technique and fierce contemporary political overtones, covered a wide range: His art celebrated the founding of the Jewish state and the Declaration of Independence; he illustrated Andersen’s Fairy Tales and created covers for popular magazines.
Born in Lodz, Poland, in 1894, Szyk died in the United States in 1951. Freedom Illuminated is an appreciation not only of the Szyk Haggadah but also of an artistic career dedicated to a purpose. Szyk’s work is informed throughout by his ardent Jewish nationalism and love for the Jewish homeland and above all by his passionate advocacy of human dignity and freedom. Although little known today, Szyk’s work deserves serious consideration as an emblem of freedom during a time of threatening power and as a highly personal amalgam of artistic traditions. Limited numbered edition of 400 copies bound in red linen with a matching slipcase. Appendixes, chronology, contributors’ list, illustrations, notes.