4/10/2017 Work of Szyk, whose romantic art glorified 20th-century Jewry, comes to Berkeley – J.

The Jewish News
of Northern California

The WWII art of illustrator Arthur Szyk often mocked Nazis.

CULTURE > ARTS

Work of Szyk, whose romantic art glori ed 20th-
century Jewry, comes to Berkeley
BY ROB GLOSTER | APRIL 3, 2017

T he Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life has acquired 450 artworks by the
Polish-born Jewish illustrator Arthur Szyk, whose works focused on subjects
ranging from Nazism to the birth of the State of Israel. The acquisition was made
possible by the single largest monetary gift to acquire art in the history of UC Berkeley.

The $10.1 million gift from Belmont-based Taube Philanthropies paid for the purchase
of the paintings, drawings and sketches by Szyk, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1940
and died in 1951 at the age of 57.

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4/10/2017 Work of Szyk, whose romantic art glorified 20th-century Jewry, comes to Berkeley – J.

The works were purchased
from Rabbi Irvin Ungar of
The Jewish News
of Northern California
Burlingame, an expert on and a
dealer of Szyk’s art. Ungar
wrote “Justice Illuminated: The
Art of Arthur Szyk” and has
curated or consulted on Szyk
exhibitions at institutions in the
U.S., Poland and Germany,
including the Library of
Congress and San Francisco’s
Palace of the Legion of Honor.

Ungar, who was associate rabbi
at Peninsula Temple Sholom in
Burlingame from 1980 to 1987,
called Szyk “the most important
Jewish artist who ever lived”
because he was unabashed in
his efforts to portray Jews in a In “Samson in the Ghetto” Szyk honors of the victims and survivors of the
Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
heroic light.

“So much of what Arthur Szyk did was fighting for justice and freedom, so he used his
art in that way,” Ungar said in an interview. “His was a visual commentary on art in
the 20th century, particularly as it affected the Jewish people.

“Here was an artist who believed deeply in his own people, not only during World
War II and the Holocaust, as a way of standing up to Nazism and fascism, but he also
used his art to raise the prestige of the Jew in the world.”

Ungar said there are almost 250 originals in the Szyk (pronounced Shick) collection
purchased by the Magnes, as well as about 200 sketches and drawings.

“It’s really pretty rare for a single institution to have, essentially, the entire corpus of
an important artist’s work, in addition to a vast trove of documentary material —
which is to say his diaries, financial records, commissions,” UC Berkeley professor of
history Tom Laqueur said. “Arthur Szyk was an important political artist as well as an
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4/10/2017 Work of Szyk, whose romantic art glorified 20th-century Jewry, comes to Berkeley – J.

important Jewish artist who captured and commented on significant world events in
his art.”
The Jewish News
of Northern California

The parents of Tad Taube, chairman of Taube Philanthropies, were also Polish
immigrants. They met Szyk in New York in the 1940s.

“Arthur Szyk’s unique contributions to contemporary art and political illustration
have not yet been recognized to the extent his work deserves,” said Taube. “With our
shared Polish Jewish heritage, and a relationship my parents developed
with Szyk upon first arriving in the United States from Poland in the early 1940s, it is
significant to me to ensure that Szyk’s remarkable works are available to today’s and
future generations.”

Ungar, who has devoted his life to calling attention to Szyk’s work, said he’s thrilled
that the Magnes now will be able to highlight an artist who illustrated everything from
a famous haggadah to fairy tales — but always focused on human rights.

“Here was an artist who was the leading anti-Nazi artist in America during World War
II, who used his value system as a Jew to be an advocate for humanity at large,” Ungar
said. “He believed that an artist cannot remain neutral in such times, that life should
not be restricted to painting landscapes.”

Rob Gloster
Rob Gloster is J.'s senior writer. He can be reached at rob@jweekly.com.

Tags: Arthur Szyk, illustration, Nazis

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4/10/2017 Work of Szyk, whose romantic art glorified 20th-century Jewry, comes to Berkeley – J.

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