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Print of an Arthur Szyk painting depicting an extended family celebrating Purim

Object | Accession Number: 2018.380.5

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    Print of an Arthur Szyk painting depicting an extended family celebrating Purim

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    Brief Narrative
    Color lithographic print of a communal Purim 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 reading of the Scroll of Esther (the Megillah) and a man and boy celebrating in costume. Purim celebrates Esther, a Queen of Persia, saving of the Jewish people from a massacre planned by an advisor to the King. The holiday is traditionally celebrated with wild abandon and with the giving of gifts to friends and the poor. 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 : Purim
    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 centered image depicts an extended family celebrating the holiday of Purim. On the left, an old man with a white, long beard, gestures with his hands while sitting in an ornamental chair. Gathered around a table, stands a young man, a boy, and a little girl. Another young boy sits on the floor. In front of the old man is a small, square table covered by an ornate red and gold-colored tablecloth. On the table is the megillah scroll, a modest plate with hamantaschen pastries, and a small silver-colored cup. To the right, a man wearing a red and yellow cone hat and a red shawl plays a violin, while a young boy in a green, blue, pink, and red-striped shawl sings and dances beside him. Nearby is a table covered with a white tablecloth, a plate of hamantaschen, silver cups, and an ornate silver-colored decanter. In the background, an old woman in a blue and black-striped dress with a long, red shirt is sitting in a chair with a young child leaning on her lap. She is flanked by two younger women standing behind her. The woman on the left holds a baby in her arms. The room has blue and white walls, a blue and gold curtain on the left, and a gold-colored carpet with a pink and green patterned border. The back is discolored around the edges and has several smudges and small stains.
    overall: Height: 8.500 inches (21.59 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 10:10:09
    This page:

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