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Lithograph of Israel from Arthur Szyk’s visual history series of the United Nations

Object | Accession Number: 2003.188.1

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    Lithograph of Israel from Arthur Szyk’s visual history series of the United Nations


    Brief Narrative
    Postwar lithograph by artist Arthur Szyk depicting a visual representation of the history of Israel. Arthur Szyk was a Polish-Jewish artist who fled Nazi-controlled Europe for London in 1937, and eventually immigrated to the United States in 1940. He started his career in book illustration and was considered one of the greatest modern practitioners of the art of illumination. His widely published caricatures made him one of the most famous political satirists during World War II. In 1945, he was commissioned by Canadian philatelist Kasimir Bileski to create illustrations for a series of stamps depicting the Visual History of Nations (United Nations). Szyk designed the stamp album frontispieces for nine countries, including one for Israel, but died in 1951 before the project could be completed. This frontispiece for Israel intricately weaves together biblical and historical figures, symbols, and Hebrew script to visually tell the story of 4,000 years of Jewish history including the organization of the 12 tribes of Israel, The Exodus, the Bar-Kokhba Revolt, the prophecies of Ezekiel, and the creation of the State of Israel.
    Artwork Title
    Title Page for the Plate of Israel
    Series Title
    Visual History of Nations
    creation:  1948
    publication:  1949
    depiction: Israel
    manufacture: Winnipeg Region (Man.)
    creation: New Canaan (Conn.)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of William Hallam Webber
    Back, lower left, printed, black ink: Title Page for the Plate of Israel / Artist-Arthur Szyk, New York / Published by K. Bileski, Station B, Winnipeg, Canada / Lithographed in the U.S.A. by Herman Jaffe, Printer, New York, U.S.A. / Copyright 1949.
    Front, bottom right, printed, pink ink: ARTHUR SZYK, NEW CANAAN, 1948
    Artist: Arthur Szyk
    Printer: Herman Jaffe & D’Arcy Lithographic Company
    Publisher: Kasimir Bileski
    Arthur Szyk (1894-1951) was born to Jewish parents, Solomon and Eugenia Szyk in Łódź, Poland, which at the time was part of the Russian Empire. He had his first public art exhibition at age 15, and then went to Paris, France, for formal art training at the Academie Julian. He visited Palestine in 1914 with a group of Polish-Jewish artists and studied Muslim art. Upon his return, he was conscripted into the Russian Army and served in World War I. He married Julia Liekerman in 1916, and they had a son, George, in 1917. In 1918, Poland regained independence, but continued to fight a series of regional wars to secure its boundaries. Between 1919 and 1920, during Poland's war against the Soviet Bolsheviks, Syzk served as a cavalry officer and artistic director of the Department of Propaganda for the Polish Army in Łódź. In 1921, he and his family moved to Paris where his daughter, Alexandra was born the following year.

    Szyk was well known for his illuminations and book illustrations, in a style reminiscent of Persian miniatures. He worked on several significant projects in France, including illustrating the Statute of Kalisz, the Haggadah, and a series of watercolors on the American Revolutionary War. The themes of his most admired works, democracy and Judaism, were already well established, earning him both fame and significant commissions. In 1934, Szyk traveled to the United States for exhibitions of his work and to receive the George Washington Bicentennial Medal, awarded by the US Congress. He resided in England from 1937-1940 to supervise the publication of the Haggadah. In 1939, following Germany's invasion of Poland, he focused on producing anti-Nazi editorial cartoons published in many Western newspapers and magazines. During the German occupation of Poland, his 70 year old mother, Eugenia, and her Polish companion were forced to live in the Łódź ghetto. In 1943, they were transported to Majdanek concentration camp and killed.

    In late 1940, Szyk immigrated to the United States with his family. He became a leading anti-Fascist political caricaturist as well as an advocate for Jewish rescue. In addition to his widely published satirical art, Szyk devoted a great deal of time and energy to the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe, and pushed for the establishment of an independent Jewish state in Palestine. Szyk received his US citizenship in 1948. In 1951, he was investigated by the United States House Un-American Activities Committee as a suspected Communist. His son, speaking on his behalf, declared his non-affiliation with any Communist organization. Later that year, on September 13, Szyk suffered a heart attack and died at age 57.

    Physical Details

    Hebrew English
    Object Type
    Lithographs (aat)
    Physical Description
    Color lithograph printed on off-white paper with a white, rectangular central panel containing a blue Star of David with grapes in the center, a gold crown and menorah design above, and Hebrew characters and printed text below. At the top center, above the panel, are 3 elaborately dressed figures (Hur, Moses, Aaron) huddled together. Moses, in the center, has his arms around the shoulders of the others, his hands and index fingers pointing outward. To their right and left, inset into squares, are portraits of King Solomon and King David, both depicted with dark hair and golden crowns. At the bottom center are the Ten Commandment tablets flanked by gold lions with an Israeli soldier on the left holding a rifle and a pioneer man on the right holding a shovel. On the right and left center are portraits of men inset in blue medallions: Ezekiel is depicted on the right with a long white beard holding a staff, while Bar-Kokhba is depicted on the left holding a sword and shield. Above and below both medallions are white Stars of David superimposed with blue Hebrew characters and set into floral panels. The figures are divided by four elaborate gold columns with a leaf design, two on each side of the central white panel. Throughout the image are twelve gold symbols representing the twelve tribes of Israel. The image is bordered by an intricate floral motif interspersed with yellow Stars of David. The artist’s signature is printed in pink ink below the image on the right. The left margin of the print is wider than the right. There are five lines of printed text on the back.
    overall: Height: 11.500 inches (29.21 cm) | Width: 9.875 inches (25.083 cm)
    overall : paper, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    Restrictions on use. See donor file for copyright information

    Keywords & Subjects

    Geographic Name
    Israel--In art. Israel.
    Personal Name
    Szyk, Arthur, 1894-1951.
    Corporate Name
    United Nations

    Administrative Notes

    The Arthur Szyk lithograph was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2003 by William Hallam Webber.
    Funding Note
    The cataloging of this artifact has been supported by a grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.
    Record last modified:
    2023-08-25 15:32:23
    This page:

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