Jan Aron­son is the illus­tra­tor of the The Bronf­man Hag­gadah pub­lished by Riz­zoli. Born in New Orleans, New York-based artist Jan Aron­son has had more than sev­en­ty solo and group exhi­bi­tions. Read more about Jan here. She will be blog­ging here for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing all week.

When I set out to cre­ate the illus­tra­tions for The Bronf­man Hag­gadah, I knew I want­ed it to be his­tor­i­cal­ly accu­rate. But I also want­ed it to be imag­i­na­tive, sur­pris­ing, and dis­tinct from all oth­er Hag­gadot. Of course I knew there were many icon­ic ideas that need­ed to be expressed, but I didn’t want to make them so rote.

As an artist I was drawn to the sym­bol­ism in the Exo­dus sto­ry. Ulti­mate­ly, my embrace of the Hag­gadah as metaphor is what allowed and con­tributed to the co-min­gling of both his­tor­i­cal accu­ra­cy and the flights of my imag­i­na­tion through­out the project.

Mosess bas­ket, an emblem­at­ic part of the Passover sto­ry, is a per­fect exam­ple of the chal­lenges I faced in terms of depart­ing from the tra­di­tion­al, whilst still remain­ing loy­al to the nar­ra­tive, and of course, history.

The dis­cov­ery of the bas­ket in the Nile by the princess, where you see the princess look­ing down at it, is a scene depict­ed in end­less Hag­gadot, and I knew I didn’t want to cre­ate that kind of an illus­tra­tion. Instead, I was drawn in by the vast­ness of the Nile. So many peo­ple don’t real­ize just how enor­mous it is at some parts. I thought the most inter­est­ing way to work with this scene was to focus on the jux­ta­po­si­tion of this tiny lit­tle bas­ket against this huge river.

In keep­ing with my ded­i­ca­tion to his­tor­i­cal accu­ra­cy, the major­i­ty of my illus­tra­tions are made up of pat­terns. When I start­ed the Hag­gadah, and I began think­ing about what imagery I would use, my first impulse was to go back to the source — what kind of imagery would the Jews have been exposed to at the time? I real­ized that it would’ve been most­ly Egypt­ian art and arti­facts, plus the influ­ence of Greek and Roman cul­tures. I am also drawn to African tex­tile pat­terns and used these in many of the paint­ings. Geo­met­ric pat­terns are wide­spread in all tra­di­tions, and they com­ple­ment­ed my vision for a dis­tinct Haggadah.

My over­all goal was to cre­ate a Hag­gadah that was con­stant­ly sur­pris­ing. I want­ed the read­er to feel that each page was dif­fer­ent from the next, hope­ful­ly inspir­ing a sense of dis­cov­ery and won­der but most­ly to make our seder expe­ri­ence interesting.

Vis­it Jan Aronson’s offi­cial web­site here.

Jan Aron­son is the illus­tra­tor of the The Bronf­man Hag­gadah pub­lished by Riz­zoli. Born in New Orleans, New York-based artist Jan Aron­son has had more than sev­en­ty solo and group exhi­bi­tions. Her work is includ­ed in many muse­um, cor­po­rate, and pri­vate col­lec­tions, both nation­al­ly and internationally.

Aron­son received a MFA from Pratt Insti­tute in 1973 and began teach­ing soon after. For the past 23 years she has con­cen­trat­ed on her work in a stu­dio in Long Island City. She is known for her nature inspired work that has tak­en her to Sinai, the Indi­an Himalayas, Patag­o­nia, the Ama­zon, the Amer­i­can West, the beach­es of Anguil­la and the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu. She recent­ly wrote a lec­ture enti­tled The Con­tem­po­rary Por­trait and pre­sent­ed it in var­i­ous venues in the Unit­ed States.

Aronson’s work has been reviewed in numer­ous peri­od­i­cals and news­pa­pers since she began her exhi­bi­tion career in the mid-seventies.

A Depar­ture From the Tra­di­tion­al: The Bronf­man Haggadah

How I Became an Illustrator

Why I Put a Map in the Bronf­man Haggadah