In Real Times. Arthur Szyk: Art & Human Rights (1926-1951)

On View: 
Jan 28, 2020 to May 29, 2020
Sep 1, 2020 to Dec 18, 2020

Born into a middle-class Polish Jewish family, Arthur Szyk (Łódź, Poland, 1894 – New Canaan, Connecticut, 1951) lived a life framed by two world wars, the collapse of European democracies, and the rise of totalitarianism. A refugee, he ultimately settled in the United States in 1940. Throughout his work as a miniature artist and political caricaturist, he used motifs drawn from religion, history, politics, and culture, pairing extraordinary craftsmanship with searing commentary on a diverse range of subjects including Judaism, the American Revolution, the Second World War, the Holocaust, and the founding of the State of Israel. 

Broad concerns for human rights are woven into Szyk’s entire production. In paintings and political cartoons, the artist exposed the Nazi genocide, supported the Polish resistance, exalted the establishment of the United Nations, and ridiculed dictators of all stripes. His unwavering denunciation of Fascist crimes in Europe, the suppression of national rights worldwide, and the endless violations of civil rights in America, are rooted in the experience of marginalization that characterized Jewish life in Eastern Europe in modern times. In our times, these concerns are still resounding strongly.

Click on the image below to view art from the exhibition on flickr.com
In Real Times: Arthur Szyk: Art & Human Rights (1926-1951)
Click on the image above to view art from the exhibition on flickr.com

Szyk’s modular aesthetics are deeply connected with the political scope of his art. References to medieval and Renaissance techniques, multilingual literary quotations, witty visual allegories, as well as modernist depictions of technology regularly recur in his works, and are often paired with enticing decorative themes that have made his oeuvre both popular and successful during, and well after, the span of the artist’s life. 

This exhibition showcases over fifty original works of art from the Taube Family Arthur Szyk Collection, acquired by The Magnes in 2017. It also includes two interactive workstations. Visitors can explore Szyk’s miniatures in high resolution, reconstructing the artist’s gaze through a “digital magnifying glass,” and are encouraged to remix and repurpose individual elements, characters, and motifs drawn from the Collection, and create new cartoons. This work is projected on large wall surfaces within the gallery itself, and can be instantly published online, giving the contemporary exploration and reinterpretation of Szyk’s art a broad audience “in real time.”

~Francesco Spagnolo


Exhibition Team

  • Curators: Francesco Spagnolo and Shir Gal Kochavi
  • Faculty Advisor: Greg Niemeyer (Art Practice) 
  • Undergraduate Curatorial Assistants: Tamara Berkover, Isaac Engelberg, Shirin Sadjapour, Camille Thomas,  Anna Tseselsky, Catherine Yang (URAP), Louis Polcin (Willamette University)
  • Visiting Curatorial Assistant: Jessica Rosenberg (Harvard Divinity School)  
  • Registrar: Julie Franklin 
  • Exhibition Specialist: Ernest Jolly 
  • Exhibition Design: Gavin Lee, Ellen Woodson, Azi Rad
Partners

The acquisition of the Taube Family Arthur Szyk Collection (2017) and research for this exhibition were made possible by a generous gift from Taube Philanthropies.

Major funding for The Magnes Collection comes from Karen and Franklin Dabby, the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, the Helzel Family Foundation, the Koret Foundation, Peachy and Mark (z”l) Levy, the Magnes Leadership Circle, the Magnes Museum Foundation, the Office of the Chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley, Barbro and Bernard Osher, and Taube Philanthropies. 

Additional research was supported, in part, by the Undergraduate Research Apprentice Program (URAP) of the University of California, Berkeley. The Curators also extend their gratitude to the scholars who participated in the program, Around Arthur Szyk, held at The Magnes in 2018-2019: Professors Deena Aranoff (Center for Jewish Studies, Graduate Theological Union), John Connelly (History, UC Berkeley), and Isabel Richter (DAAD Professor, German and History, UC Berkeley).

Exhibitions Information
Location: 
The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life
Opening Hours: 
Tuesday-Friday 11am-4pm
2121 Allston Way
Berkeley, CA
United States
Exhibition Resources
Media Galleries

Images

Arthur Szyk, Madness (1941), 2017.15.1.70

Arthur Szyk, Madness (1941), 2017.15.1.70

Arthur Szyk, Madness (1941), 2017.15.1.70

Arthur Szyk (1894-1951, Poland, France, UK, Canada, and United States)
Madness
United States, New York, 1941,
Watercolor, gouache, ink, and graphite on paper
Taube Family Arthur Szyk Collection, The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, University of California, Berkeley

Szyk Self Portrait 1932-1933

A. Szyk, Institute for the Publication of the Works of Arthur Szyk in Lwow (Self-Portrait), ca. 1932-1933, 2017.5.1.36

Szyk Self Portrait 1932-1933

Arthur Szyk (1894-1951)
Institute for the Publication of the Works of Arthur Szyk in Lwow (Self-Portrait)
ca. 1932-1933
pen and ink on paper
Taube Family Arthur Szyk Collection, The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, University of California, Berkeley, Accession No. 2017.5.1.36

Videos

Arthur Szyk in the Digital World | A UC Berkeley Research Project at The Magnes

Arthur Szyk in the Digital World | A UC Berkeley Research Project at The Magnes

Arthur Szyk in the Digital World | A UC Berkeley Research Project at The Magnes

Since its acquisition by The Magnes in 2017, the circa 450 works of art that are part of the Taube Family Arthur Szyk Collection have been the object of intense digital scrutiny by a team of scholars, curators, and students. Digitally investigating Szyk’s work leads to a closer understanding of the artist’s gaze, and of his methodologies. Decorative elements, frames, and a host of “characters” that populate Szyk’s painted images have been isolated, described, and digitally cropped. Some of these works have been digitally animated for this exhibition.

This video, created by Tamara Berkover (UCB Economics, 2020) using Adobe software (Photoshop, After Effects, and Premiere), showcases our process and methodologies in revisiting Szyk’s art in the 21st century. It focuses on two artworks. Madness, created in 1941 for the cover of Collier’s magazine, centers on a series of haunting caricatures of Nazi leaders and their collaborators. The illustration of Szyk’s own poem, Love for Man and Nature has been My Guide (1940), celebrated Canadian involvement in the Second World War, including a host of characters representing Canada’s heritage and military might. Among these characters, Szyk added a portrait of himself as a militant artist-worker.

Presented in conjunction with the exhibition, In Real Times. Arthur Szyk: Art & Human Rights (2020).

More at http://bit.ly/inrealtimes