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Print of an Arthur Szyk painting depicting the Simchat Torah celebration

Object | Accession Number: 2018.380.1

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    Print of an Arthur Szyk painting depicting the Simchat Torah celebration

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    Brief Narrative
    Color lithographic print of the Simchat Torah celebration, created by Arthur Szyk in New Canaan, Connecticut. The image was originally printed in the book, Six paintings of Jewish holidays, in 1948. The print depicts the male members of a Jewish congregation traditionally celebrating the religious holiday, Simchat Torah (Rejoicing with the Torah) by carrying the Torah scrolls (handwritten copy of the Torah, the five books of Moses) around the bimah (podium where the Torah and Prophets are read) and the synagogue while singing, dancing, and reciting chants. The Simchat Torah marks and celebrates completion of the annual Torah readings. 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.
    Simchath Torah
    Series Title
    Holiday Series
    publication/distribution:  1948
    creation: New Canaan (Conn.)
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of the Estate of Robert Levitt
    front, below image, printed, red and black ink : Simchath Torah
    front, bottom, right, printed, black ink : © FD USA
    front, bottom, printed, black ink : Arthur Szyk NEW CANAAN, 48 / © FD USA
    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
    Prints (lcsh)
    Physical Description
    Color lithographic print adhered to rectangular, discolored, off-white, heavyweight paper. The large center image depicts a congregation of men and boys inside a synagogue. A large man stands in the center of the image, walking down the center aisle with a Torah Scroll in his arms. He has a long, white beard and wears a black kippah on his head. Draped over his shoulders is a white tallit with tzit tzit attached on the ends, over a black and purple robe. He is flanked on his right by a boy with black payot side locks, and an older man on his left with a long, white beard. They are both dressed in similar ceremonial garb as the center man, and each carry a scroll. To the left and right of the aisle, the congregation are reading from holy books. They are all wearing black and white tallits with brown shtreimels on their heads. The floor is covered with a carpet that is extravagantly decorated with multicolored, geometric shapes and flowers. In the background is an ornately decorated Torah Ark with a large gold menorah on each side. The back of the paper has several small stains and water spots.
    overall: Height: 8.375 inches (21.273 cm) | Width: 10.000 inches (25.4 cm)
    overall : paper, ink, adhesive

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    Restrictions on use. Copyright retained by the estate of Arthur Szyk.

    Keywords & Subjects

    Personal Name
    Szyk, Arthur, 1894-1951.

    Administrative Notes

    The print was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2018 by Susan Stamberg, the daughter of Robert Levitt.
    Record last modified:
    2023-02-24 10:09:46
    This page:

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