In the first half of the twentieth century, when so many artists were pursuing abstraction, Polish Jewish artist Arthur Szyk (1894 – 1951) mastered the intricate art of miniature painting and illumination. He brought his unmistakable style to subjects as diverse as biblical stories, literary classics, and political caricature — all in service of religious tolerance, racial equality, and human dignity. Many of his works were published as limited-edition fine art books and as editorials in periodicals such as Collier’s, Esquire, TIME, and the New York Post. Yet even his best-known works — his incendiary anti-Nazi political cartoons (1934 – 1945), his vibrant Haggadah (1940), and his charming illustrations for Andersen’s Fairy Tales (1945) — barely scratch the surface of his prolific oeuvre, which defies categorization.
The first reference book of its kind, Arthur Szyk Preserved is an essential compendium of all original Szyk works on paper known to reside in institutions. The definitive volume will empower a new generation of scholars to accurately locate 670 drawings and paintings across thirty-one international institutions and to survey his fascinating career with ease. Whether readers are interested in Judaica, Polish history, Holocaust education, postwar Americana, or Zionism, the full record of Szyk’s wide-ranging work is now at their fingertips.
Remarkably, most of his pieces—The Haggadah (Lucas Museum of Narrative Art), Statut de Kalisz (The Jewish Museum), Washington and His Times (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum), the Visual History of Nations (The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at the University of California, Berkeley), and The Jewish Holidays (Yeshiva University Museum) — are completely intact and a part of public collections. Although the majority of Szyk’s works came to these museums, galleries, and universities through acquisition, the artist made gifts of certain pieces in order to politically influence powerful institutions and individuals to protect human rights, take a stand against fascism, and/or combat antisemitism.
Brimming with new research and fresh insight from Irvin Ungar, the world’s foremost Szyk expert, Arthur Szyk Preserved attests to the depth, breadth, and unmatched brilliance of an outstanding twentieth-century artist-activist. Art lovers will enjoy over thirty full-color reproductions of Szyk’s art, each with a summary provided by its primary institution, as well as an appendix devoted to his three-dimensional works, some of which have never been published before.
Allison is a freelance writer and editor specializing in art history. The former executive vice president of The Arthur Szyk Society, she is the author of Heroes of Ancient Israel: The Playing Card Art of Arthur Szyk (Historicana, 2011). Her work has appeared in The Nation and Moment, and in gallery museum publications worldwide.