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Print of an Arthur Szyk painting depicting Hanukkah festivities

Object | Accession Number: 2018.380.3

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    Print of an Arthur Szyk painting depicting Hanukkah festivities


    Brief Narrative
    Color lithographic print of a traditional communal Hanukkah 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 several members of a community gathering to celebrate Hanukkah by lighting a Hanukkiah (a candelabrum that holds eight candles for the eight nights of Hanukkah, plus the Shamash [attendant] that is used to light the other candles), playing games, serving Latkes, and singing Hanukkah songs. Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem during the Jewish revolt against the oppressive Seleucid Empire. 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.
    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, black and red ink : Chanukah
    front, bottom, printed, black ink : © FD USA
    front, bottom right, printed, black ink : ARTHUR SZYK. NEW CANAAN, 48.
    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 communal Hanukkah festivities. In the bottom left, an elderly man and woman sit in ornate, wooden chairs behind a chess board. The woman has a wrinkled face and wears a decorated tichel, and a blue and white coat adorned with flowers and geometric shapes. The man has a long, white beard and wears a long, white coat with a black kippah, and is gesturing with his hand. They both have wooden canes in their hands. In the center, stands a family of six: a man, woman, and their four children. The woman wears a decorated tichel, a red, ornately embellished blouse, and carries the youngest child in her arms. The man has a short beard, and wears a dark coat with a blue vest and shtreimel. In front of them stand two boys, wearing long coats. To their left is a girl with blonde hair, wearing a red dress. All three children are holding books with seven-branched menorahs on the covers. In the back, a man and woman wearing green coats stand in front of the open door, along with a child holding a small bag and wearing a dark coat. The room has blue walls with an armoire, and a gold colored table along the wall. Sitting on the table is a silver, decorative Hanukkiah. In the front is a table with a plate full of latkes. The back of the paper has very yellowed edges and small stains throughout.
    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:
    2023-09-15 10:14:31
    This page:

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