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9 first-edition lithographs created by Arthur Szyk for a visual history of the founding nations of the UN

Object | Accession Number: 2002.113.3

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    Brief Narrative
    9 first-edition lithographs from the "Visual history of nations" series dated 1945 to 1949. Kasimir Bileski, a Canadian philatelist and entrepreneur, commissioned Arthur Szyk to create the series in 1945. The series was originally referred to as the "United Nations series" because each of the 9 separate sheets symbolically portrays the visual history of a founding or member country of the United Nations. The nations included are the United States of America, Canada, Poland, Great Britain, France, the Soviet Union, China, Switzerland, and Israel. The lithographs were created to be the title pages for a unique international stamp album and were printed from watercolor and gouache illuminations.
    Series Title
    Visual history of nations
    creation:  1945-1949
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Irvin Ungar
    Artist: Arthur Szyk
    Subject: Arthur Szyk
    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

    Object Type
    Lithographs (aat)
    overall: Height: 10.500 inches (26.67 cm) | Width: 12.500 inches (31.75 cm)

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    Restrictions on use. Copyright belongs to Irvin Ungar, Historicana.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    The portfolio was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2002 by Irvin Ungar.
    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:
    2022-07-28 18:29:18
    This page:

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