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Print of an Arthur Szyk painting featuring iconic images of Americana

Object | Accession Number: 2002.113.3.1

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    Brief Narrative
    Color lithographic print from the United Nations Series, originally painted by Arthur Szyk in New Canaan, Connecticut. Each image in the series was to be highly detailed single-page piece that combined symbols, scenes, portraits, and decorative motifs to create a visual history of each member country of the United Nations. The series was commissioned by Kasimir Bileski, and the images were meant to be cover pages for an international stamp book. Szyk was to continue painting these histories as new countries joined the United Nations, but he only completed nine before his death in 1951. Born to Jewish parents in Łódź, Poland, Szyk studied and worked on projects throughout Europe, drawing on his personal experiences when creating images. When Szyk returned to Poland, he served in the Russian Army during World War I. While serving, he became an artistic director for the Polish Department of Propaganda during the Polish–Soviet War. In 1937, Szyk moved to England to escape the increasing antisemitism and rising Nazi threat. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Szyk began contributing illustrations and caricatures of Hitler and the Nazis to the war propaganda campaign. In 1940, he was able to immigrate to the United States, where he continued his career as an illustrator and contributed anti-Nazi cartoons to publications such as Life, Time, and Esquire. His widely published caricatures made him one of the most famous political satirists during World War II and he was considered one of the greatest modern practitioners of the art of illumination.
    The United States of America
    Series Title
    Visual History of Nations
    creation:  1945
    creation: New Canaan (Conn.)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Irvin Ungar
    front, top, center, within image, printed, black ink : E PLURIBUS UNUM
    front, center, printed, black and red ink : THE / UNITED STATES / OF / AMERICA
    front, center, bottom, within image, printed, black ink : PONY EXPRESS
    back, bottom left, printed, black ink : Title Page for the United States of America / Artist—ARTHUR SZYK, New York / Published by K. BILESKI, Station B, Winnipeg, Canada / Printed in the U.S.A by HERMAN JAFFE, Printer, New York, U.S.A. / Copyright 1945
    Artist: Arthur Szyk
    Subject: 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

    English Latin
    Object Type
    Lithographs (aat)
    Physical Description
    Color print showing eight panels of Americana and people around a central title. The center is a white rectangle with four lines of black and red text, surrounded by a gold colored square with half-circles on the top and bottom. The top center panel features a left facing bald eagle holding an olive branch and thirteen arrows in its talons, a scroll in its beak with extended wings, a blue shield with red and white stripes. The four corners contain images inside barbed quatrefoils, inside the top left is an image of the Hoover Dam and the top right corner has a factory. The center left panel contains three vignettes: a portrait of a slave wearing a straw hat, an image of the New York skyline, and a Navy sailor in a white cap. The center right panel has three similar vignettes: a portrait of a Native American, the Golden Gate Bridge, and a portrait of an Army soldier in a combat helmet. The bottom row has an image of a white steamboat on a river on the left, an image of a Pony Express rider in a tan outfit on horseback with a plane flying overhead and a modern train in the background in the center, and a coal powered locomotive in the right. Between the bottom and center panels, in mirrored poses and tan shirts with brown vests, are waist up images of a farmer in a western style hat and a blue collar worker in a blue Newsboy Cap. The panels sit within a frame of red, yellow, and green floral designs with forty-eight white and blue stars. Intertwined inside the panels are depictions of American buffalo, bear, and beaver. The exterior of the entire image is framed by an ornate yellow and blue floral design.
    overall: Height: 9.940 inches (25.248 cm) | Width: 11.500 inches (29.21 cm)

    Rights & Restrictions

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

    Keywords & Subjects

    Corporate Name
    United Nations

    Administrative Notes

    The lithograph 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:
    2023-08-25 15:32:23
    This page:

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