Por­trait tak­en at Szyk’s home in New Canaan, Con­necti­cut, some­time after 1945, when Szyk was about 50 years old.

The Arthur Szyk Soci­ety, Burlingame, CA 

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’sEsquireTIME, 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.

Charle­magne and Jew­ish Schol­ars. Paris, 1928. Bib­lio­thèque Nationale de France. Pho­to cour­tesy of the publisher

De Pro­fundis. New York, 1942. The Magnes Col­lec­tion of Jew­ish Art and Life, Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley. Pho­to cour­tesy of the publisher

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.