Past events

Building Bridges: The Legacy of Polish-Jewish Artist Arthur Szyk, Fighter for Justice and Freedom

Tuesday, April 9, 2013, at 7:00pm

ONGOING EXHIBITION from April 9th - April 30th.

Artur Szyk Exhibit accompanied by  Irvin Ungar's lecture: "Building Bridges: The Legacy of Polish-Jewish Artist Arthur Szyk, Fighter for Justice and Freedom". 

Arthur Szyk was a 20th century master illuminator, miniature painter and  activist. Szyk was born in 1894 in the city of Łódź, Poland. Though he largely built his career and reputation in France, and later in the United States, Szyk was proud of his Polish heritage and maintained strong ties to his home country for the rest his life.

In 1926 Szyk started working on a 45-page illumination of the Statute of Kalisz, a thirteenth-century "Bill of Rights" for the Jews of Poland.

Issued in the 13th century by Bolesław the Pious, the Grand Duke of Greater Poland, the Statute of Kalisz—sometimes called the "Jewish Magna Carta"—guaranteed civil and religious privileges to the Jews of Poland. In Szyk's eyes, the Statute was evidence of Poland's commitment to a harmonious relationship with its Jewish citizens, a commitment that was increasingly under threat from anti-Semitism. The artist illuminated forty-five miniatures containing the text of the Statute in the original Latin and translated it into Polish, Hebrew, Yiddish, Italian, German, English, and Spanish. With the sponsorship of the Polish government, the original art was exhibited throughout the country in 1932. That same year, the Éditions de la Table Rode de Paris published the Statute of Kalisz as a collector's luxury limited edition. However, of a projected edition of 500 copies, approximately 250 were printed, with most destroyed in the bombing of a Warsaw warehouse. Now only 30 copies are believed to exist. An original will be on display at the KF on the opening night of the exhibit.

Arthur Szyk (1894-1951) often said "Art is not my aim, it is my means," and his visual commentary before, during, and after World War II relentlessly attacked oppression and tyranny, and served as a weapon for justice and freedom. His worldly concerns and nationalistic tendencies fostered and cultivated a sense of belonging, pride, and shared loyalty to differing cultures and countries, chief of which was his concern for Jews and Poles. As such, Arthur Szyk devoted his life and his art toward serving humanity by building bridges between peoples and among nations. This presentation will illuminate how Szyk's means achieved his ends.

Irvin Ungar has served as The Arthur Szyk Society's in-kind Curator for more than a decade. A former pulpit rabbi, Ungar is the foremost expert on the life and work of Arthur Szyk. Much of that expertise has been acquired through his career as the Founder and CEO of Historicana, a firm of antiquarian booksellers specializing in Judaica and the art of Arthur Szyk.

In addition to curating The Society's traveling exhibition program, Irvin has lectured and consulted worldwide on the Szyk oeuvre at prestigious institutions including: the Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco; the Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin; the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC; and the Library of Congress.  

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