This article is arranged according to the following outline:
Antiquity to 1800
INTRODUCTION: JEWISH ATTITUDE TO ART
THE SANCTUARY AND FIRST TEMPLE PERIOD
SECOND TEMPLE PERIOD
AFTER THE FALL OF JERUSALEM
RELATION TO EARLY CHRISTIAN ART
ART IN THE ROMAN EMPIRE
THE RENAISSANCE PERIOD
THE ART OF THE PRINTED BOOK
THE REVIVAL OF MANUSCRIPT ART
Modern Jewish Art
The 19th Century
The 20th Century
MODERN EREẒ ISRAEL
The Creation of the Bezalel School
The 1980s and After
The Holocaust in Jewish American Art
Last Decade of the Twentieth Century
Art in the Ghettos and the Camps during the Holocaust
PORTRAITS AND "PRIVILEGED ARTISTS"
PORTRAYAL OF THE CAMPS
DAILY LIFE – INDOOR AND OUTDOORS SCENES
ART AS A MEANS OF CONNECTION WITH THE OUTSIDE WORLD
Art Influenced by the Holocaust
Whether there exists a form of art that can be described as "Jewish Art" has long been a matter for discussion. What is indisputable is that at every stage of their history the Jews and their ancestors of biblical times expressed themselves in various art forms which inevitably reflect contemporary styles and fashions and the environment in which they lived. For purposes of cult and of religious observance, as well as for household and personal adornment, Jews have constantly produced or made use of objects which appealed in some fashion to their aesthetic sense. In a famous passage (Shab. 133b), the rabbis, commenting on Exodus 15:2, prescribed that God should be "adorned" by the use of beautiful implements for the performance of religious observances. A problem exists, however, regarding the Jewish attitude toward figurative and representational art. The Pentateuchal code in many places (Ex. 20:4; Deut. 5:8 and in great detail 4:16–18) ostensibly prohibits, in the sternest terms, the making of any image or likeness of man or beast. In the context, this presumably implies a prohibition of such manufacture for the purposes of worship. But this reservation is not stated specifically in the text, and there is no doubt that at certain times the rigidity of the prohibition impeded or even completely prevented the development among the Jews
of figurative art, and indeed of the visual arts generally, especially as far as representation of the human form or face was concerned. The inhibitions were stronger against the plastic arts (i.e., relief or sculpture) than against painting or drawing, because of the specific biblical reference to the "graven image." Nevertheless, at various periods and in various environments, in antiquity, as well as in modern times, these inhibitions were ignored. The meticulous obedience or relative neglect of the apparent biblical prohibition of representational art seems in fact to have been conditioned by external circumstances, and in two directions – revulsion, or attraction. In the later biblical period and throughout classical antiquity, in an environment in which the worship of images by their neighbors played a great part, the Jews reacted strongly against this practice and up to a point representational art was sternly suppressed. The same applied to a certain degree in the environment of Roman and Greek Catholicism in the Middle Ages. On the other hand, when the Jews were to some extent culturally assimilated, they began to share in the artistic outlook of their neighbors and the prejudice against representational art dwindled, and in the end almost disappeared. To this generalization, however, other factors must be added. Sometimes, the religious reaction of the Jews was influenced by political considerations. The almost frenzied Jewish opposition to images of any sort toward the close of the Second Temple period seems to have been prompted by the extreme nationalist elements, happy to find a point in which their political opposition could be based on a clear-cut religious issue. A few generations later, in an age of appeasement, their great-grandchildren could be, and were far more broadminded. But during periods of religious iconoclasm among their neighbors, the Jews – the classical iconoclasts – could not very well afford to be more compliant than others. Therefore, it seems, in the Byzantine Empire in the eighth and ninth centuries and in the Muslim world long after this, there ensued an interlude in which representational art was rigidly shunned even though the nonrepresentational made notable progress.
In certain areas during the Middle Ages and Ghetto period representational art, both pictorial and plastic, was tolerated even in connection with religious observances and with cult objects used in the synagogue. At the same period, in other areas, the inhibitions were so strong as to exclude such objects even from secular use. In more recent times, portrait painting and photography have come to be generally – though not quite universally – tolerated even among the extreme orthodox. The emergence of artists from the Jewish community similarly presents no clear-cut picture. The names are known of men active in representational art in the classical period, and there were a few in Christian Europe in the Middle Ages carrying out even ecclesiastical commissions. In the 18th century, Jewish painters and portraitists – artists in the modern sense – began to appear in several European countries. But it is not easy to explain the sudden emergence in recent generations of a flood of artists of outstanding genius, largely of Eastern European origin, in France, the United States, and elsewhere. Until the 19th century the Jewish attitude toward art was in fact not negative, but ambivalent.
It is known that there was a relatively high development of art in Ereẓ Israel even before the coming of the Hebrews. In the Mesolithic period the inhabitants of the region that is now Wadi Natuf in Western Judea produced some carvings which, while intended for ritual purposes, show a love of full forms and beautiful shapes, a purity of line and balance of masses, which characterize naturalistic art at its best. The Jericho culture of the eighth to fifth millennia B.C.E. has a fresh aesthetic approach, and the clay masks found there, perhaps connected with ancestor worship, are among the chief works of ancient art in the Middle East. The carved bone and ivory figurines produced by the Beersheba culture of the fourth millennium are in advance both chronologically and qualitatively of the earliest productions of Egyptian art. The mysterious hoard of copper and ivory cult-objects of the Chalcolithic period found in 1961 in Naḥal Mishmar, not far from the Dead Sea, shows a sense of form and a high standard of execution. The Canaanite period which immediately preceded the Israelite conquest produced some significant religious art. Moreover, the invaders of Ereẓ Israel, whether Egyptians, Assyrians, or Hittites, all brought with them their own artistic conventions and left behind monuments or objects which inevitably affected the aesthetic conceptions of the inhabitants of the country. Hence the Hebrews arrived in a country which already had, if not an artistic tradition, at least a number of artistic expressions, most of them associated with cult purposes.
According to the Pentateuch, there were among the Hebrews who left Egypt artificers of genius, capable "in all manner of workmanship, to devise curious works, to work in gold and in silver and in brass, and in the cutting of stones for setting, and in carving of wood, to make any manner of skillful work" (Ex. 35:31–35). The women were skilled in embroidery (ibid., 25–26). The sanctuary in the wilderness, whose appurtenances and decoration were traditionally associated with the names of Bezalel son of Uri and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, was presumably designed in accordance with contemporary Egyptian artistic fashion. This fashion no doubt continued to exercise considerable influence on the Hebrews even after they entered Canaan. Artistically, the most memorable detail was the pair of
, apparently with human faces, whose wings extended over the Ark. The making of these has to be considered as art in the more restricted sense and not as mere skilled craftsmanship. These enigmatic figures, also a feature of the First
until its destruction, were the outstanding exception which proved that the ancient Hebrews did not absolutely shun figurative and plastic art.
In addition to these and similar decorative cherubim, the great laver in Solomon's Temple, called the "molten sea," was supported on the backs of twelve oxen cast in bronze, a construction to which at some later age there were objections.
According to the detailed accounts in the books of Kings and Chronicles, the laver must have been both architecturally impressive and aesthetically memorable, especially in its decorative details.
It is not easy to discern the development of what may be termed native Hebrew art in the period of the Monarchy. Indeed, there is explicit information that the expert craftsmen employed in the construction of the Temple were Phoenicians from Tyre. The relatively few relics that have been preserved in Ereẓ Israel from this period, such as the not uncommon Astarte figurines, are mainly Canaanite in character. On the other hand, the plaques from the "House of Ivory" built in Samaria by King Ahab (876–853 B.C.E.), which show great taste and sensitivity, are under the influence of Phoenician art and were possibly executed by craftsmen introduced by Queen
from her native Sidon. Similarly, the admirably executed
of the period are Egyptian or Assyrian both in character and in execution.
The situation continued into the period of the Second Temple. The handful of returned exiles lacked the conditions of political security and economic well-being that might have fostered the development of a native art. Any attempts in this direction must inevitably have been shaped at the beginning by Persian, and later by Greek, influences. With the Hellenization of the Middle East after the invasion of
the Great (333 B.C.E.), Greek art began to make its appearance throughout the region. Greek cities were constructed within the area of the historic Ereẓ Israel, with temples, baths, and statuary which inevitably became familiar to the Jewish population.
IV's attempt to Hellenize Judea from 168 B.C.E. onward involved the forcible imposition of Greek standards and customs. These included the setting up throughout the land, and even in the Temple itself, not only of decorative statues, but also images for adoration. The religious reaction against this, under the Hasmoneans, inevitably fortified the Jewish opposition to any form of representational art. The latter Hasmonean rulers were nevertheless strongly affected by Hellenistic culture. Their buildings were constructed in accordance with Greek standards, with fine detail. The earliest Jewish
, produced in this period, are sometimes beautifully designed, with Greek symbols such as the star, cornucopia, and anchor, executed with great delicacy. It is significant, however, that the effigy of the ruler never figured in these coins, as might normally have been expected.
With the Roman occupation, and in particular under the House of
, new attitudes began to emerge. Herod had no images in his remote, desert palace at
; but he had no objection to the introduction of statues and images into the non-Jewish parts of his dominions, even where there may have been a considerable Jewish population. It is known, too, that even the more resolutely Jewish members of his household did not object to having their portraits painted. On the other hand, Jewish nationalist extremists seem to have found in the biblical prohibition of images, literally and rigidly interpreted, a useful pretext for or stimulus to their anti-Roman feelings. When Roman coins bearing the emperor's effigy circulated in Judea, many persons – patriots perhaps more than pietists – objected strongly and some even refused to handle them. It was natural that there should be frenzied objections when in 37 C.E. the emperor Caligula's statue was placed in the Temple for adoration, even though there was later to be no opposition to the patriotic placing of statues of the ruler in Babylonian synagogues. There was also a loud outcry against the bearing of standards with the imperial effigy by the Roman legionaries when they marched through Jerusalem. Similarly, Herod's placing of an eagle over the Temple gate as a symbol of Rome was the occasion for an incipient revolt – ostensibly on religious grounds, but obviously with patriotic motivation as well. But a talmudic source of a later period reveals a more tolerant attitude when it states (TJ, Av. Zar. 3:1, 42c) that all likenesses were to be found in Jerusalem (before the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E.) except those of human beings. Although Herod's descendants would not use portraits in the coinage which they struck for Judea, they did not refrain from doing so for their possessions over the border. One of the Herodian palaces in Tiberias had figures of animals on the walls. No one appears to have objected to this until after the outbreak of the war against Rome in 66 C.E. when Josephus, as military governor of Galilee, led a campaign of competitive iconoclasm in order to demonstrate his zeal. There is some evidence that at this period patriotic religious fervor led to a decree forbidding all images. This temporarily stifled any artistic expression of the accepted type, precisely in an age of national resurgence when it might have been expected to flower. Architecture appears to have flourished in the Second Temple period around Jerusalem. Many ambitiously conceived funerary monuments are to be found, particularly in the
Valley, and a number of delicately decorated sarcophagi and
have been unearthed. The Temple of Herod seems to have deserved its reputation as one of the architectural marvels of the Roman Empire.
With the fall of Bethar in 135 C.E. and the acceptance of Roman rule by the Pharisee elements, conditions changed. Theoretically, the religious inhibitions remained in force, but there was an increasing tendency to interpret the biblical prohibition as applying only to imagery intended for adoration. Hence, in practice, greater tolerance came to be shown. Rabbis of the highest piety did not object to frequenting baths where there was a statue of a heathen deity, maintaining that it was placed there for decoration only. In addition to their architectural significance, the synagogue ruins dating from this period (second–fifth centuries) embody decorative carvings and symbols – including animal forms – which combine a high standard of craftsmanship with a well-developed aesthetic sense. In due course rabbinical pronouncements reflected the changed attitude: to this period
belongs the statement quoted above that all images except the human were to be found in pre-Destruction Jerusalem.
In the third century R.
countenanced the painting of frescoes (TJ, Av. Zar. 3:3, 42d), while in the fifth century, according to a statement in the Jerusalem Talmud (Av. Zar. 4:1, 43d), R.
permitted – or at least tolerated – decorated mosaics and wall frescoes even in synagogues. The sixth-century mosaic of the
synagogue, vividly depicting the signs of the Zodiac, the Four Seasons, the Chariot of the Sun, and the sacrifice of Isaac, created a sensation when it was discovered in 1928. It is now realized, however, that there was nothing unusual about this form of decoration. Mosaics showing conventional figures and biblical scenes were a normal feature of synagogal decoration in Ereẓ Israel at the time. This is all the more remarkable in view of the fact that prostration in a synagogue on a figured floor would seem to be forbidden by the Bible (Lev. 26:1). Marianos and his son Ḥanina, who were responsible for the Bet Alfa mosaic, are the earliest Jewish artists in the modern sense known by name whose work has been preserved (though the epitaph of a Jewish painter named Edoxios has been found in the Jewish catacombs in Rome). More memorable from the artistic viewpoint are the magnificent third-century frescoes found in the synagogue at
in Syria, preserved by what was no more than a lucky chance. These comprise an entire series of highly artistic wall paintings, executed in conventional Hellenistic style, which illustrate in great detail certain aspects of biblical history and prophecy. In these paintings the human face and form are lavishly represented. The lavish admission of figurative art to the synagogue, the very place of worship, is important. It is probable that this type of decoration was commonplace in synagogues of the period, even though the Dura specimen is the only one to have been preserved. It clearly represents a fairly long tradition of such art. Indeed, below the frescoes now revealed there have been discovered traces of others of a generation earlier, and these too, presumably, were no revolutionary innovation. Whether or not the Dura frescoes reflected, or were paralleled by, manuscript illuminations of Bible texts remains a problem. In view of the detailed regulations for the writing of the
such illuminations would of course be for domestic purposes only, and not for use in the synagogue. But it can be stated categorically that if human figures were tolerated on the walls of the synagogue before the worshiper's eyes, there is no reason why they should not have been permitted in codices or rolls studied in the home.
The analogies between the Dura frescoes and early Christian art are in some cases obvious, and have given rise to the theory that the latter continued the tradition of an earlier Jewish book-art, though this remains a matter of speculation. Indeed, it has been suggested that the earliest specimens of Christian book illumination – the Vienna Genesis of the sixth century (going back probably to a fourth-century archetype), the Joshua Roll of the tenth, the Codex Amiatinus based on a sixth-century original – may be Jewish in origin, or copied from Jewish prototypes in the Diaspora. Three-dimensional figures were more objectionable religiously than two-dimensional ones. But the inhibitions were weakening, for in the catacombs of
She'arim Greek coffins with crudely executed mythological figures in low relief were reused for Jewish burials. In the synagogues at Baram, Kefar Naḥum (Capernaum) and Chorazin in Ereẓ Israel there are fragmentary figures of lions in three dimensions. In Babylon, as has been mentioned, the statue of the ruler was admitted without protest, even in synagogues frequented by outstanding scholars (Av. Zar. 43b).
Clearly, the artistic traditions of the Palestinian and Near Eastern synagogues were imitated, perhaps with fewer inhibitions, in the Western Diaspora. The splendid architectural remains at
in Italy and
in Asia Minor show that monumental synagogues with fine attention to detail were common. Discoveries at Aegina in Greece and Hamam Lif in North Africa suggest that decorated floors were also usual. While no figurative art has yet been discovered in the Diaspora synagogues of the classical period (other than conventionally carved lions at Sardis), it is present in abundance on the wall frescoes of the Jewish catacombs in Rome. The emphasis, however, is on mythological figures, without the biblical reminiscences that might be expected. More remarkable are the lavishly decorated sarcophagi found in Rome, one at least bearing three-dimensional putti and other figures in high relief, by the side of the
or seven-branched candelabrum.
endeavored to demonstrate in his monumental work, Jewish Symbols in the Graeco-Roman Period (1953–65) and in a number of minor studies, that much of this representational art, in defiance of apparent rabbinic proscriptions, was the manifestation of a Jewish synthetic mystery religion. This popular religion was allied to, though not identical with, talmudic Judaism. But whether accepted or not, the theory cannot obscure the fact that within Judaism in the late classical period it was possible for figurative art in the fullest sense to develop.
The question remains, whether there was any continuity of tradition between the Jewish representational art centering in Bible illustration and the later version of the same art in Europe. There is unequivocal evidence of the former down to the sixth century at least, while the latter appeared, fully fledged but obviously of much earlier origin, from the 13th century onward.
Whatever the answer, the relative liberalism and normal development of art among the Jews in the late classical period subsequently received a check. To a certain extent this was the result of or paralleled the iconoclastic movement in the Byzantine Empire, which inevitably affected the Jews. There is evidence that at this time the figures in the Na'aran Synagogue mosaic were mutilated, and that a similar fate was suffered
by some of the decorative carvings in other Galilean synagogues.
More decisive, naturally, was the spread of Islam, which became supreme for centuries in those areas where Jewish life flourished most. The new religion had, with certain exceptions, strong iconoclastic tendencies. Obviously the Jews could not afford to be more tolerant in this matter than their Muslim neighbors. Hence it appears that there was a revulsion in much of the Jewish world against the incipient representational art, and that this revulsion lingered in some vital areas even after the Islamic domination had receded.
The Spanish rabbis were outright in their opposition. The Sefer ha-Ḥinnukh, attributed to Aaron ha-Levi of Barcelona (39, 12), emphasized that it was forbidden to make likenesses of a human being out of any material, even for ornament. Maimonides, however, was somewhat more tolerant, forbidding (Yad. Av. Kokh. 3:10–11) only the human (not the animal) form in the round, and permitting it in painting and tapestries. Art expressed itself among the Jews, as among the Arabs, in nonrepresentational forms, making use of ornaments and arabesques, and exploiting to the full the decorative potentialities of the Hebrew alphabet and the patterning of minuscular characters. The exquisite decorations in the surviving medieval Spanish synagogues (especially at
), though somewhat later in date, are impressive examples of such work. More striking is the testimony of manuscript art. Throughout the Muslim world and the area under its influence, a new tradition established itself, highly Islamic in both feeling and conception. Illuminations in the accepted medieval sense – i.e., actual illustrations of the text – are ostentatiously absent. Instead, many pages are elaborately decorated – with carpet patterns, intricate geometrical designs, and the most skillful use of calligraphic characters both large and small, the last sometimes fashioned with consummate mastery into involved patterns of great ingenuity. Not infrequently, especially in biblical manuscripts, such decorative pages were deliberately and quite irrelevantly included at the beginning of the manuscript, and sometimes at the end as well, in great profusion, merely to enhance the beauty of the volume. The inclusion in the Bible manuscripts of highly stylized representations of the vessels of the Sanctuary seems, however, to form a link between these manuscripts and those of the now submerged tradition of the classical period. This method of Hebrew Bible illumination, divorced from the text, survived in some areas, or in some circles, as late as the second half of the 15th century. This is evidenced by the Kennicott Bible in Oxford illuminated by
Joseph *Ibn Ḥayyim
, and by the Hebrew Bible of the University of Aberdeen, completed in 1494.
Outside the Muslim orbit these inhibitions against representational art did not apply – at least not the same degree – and with the rise of the Jewish communities in Northern Europe, representational art began to reappear. Whether or not there was any direct link with the classical period remains a matter of dispute. Once again, there is a disparity between strict religious theory as reflected in the rabbinic texts and actuality as shown in surviving relics of the period. Although in the 12th century Eliakim b. Joseph of Metz ordered the removal of the stained glass windows from the synagogue of Mainz, his younger colleague
*Ephraim b. Isaac
of Regensburg permitted the painting of animals and birds on the walls.
*Isaac b. Moses
of Vienna recalled seeing similar embellishments in the place of worship he frequented at Meissen as a boy. The author of the Sefer Ḥasidim expressed his categoric disapproval of representations of animate beings in the synagogue. On the other hand, Rashi knew of, and apparently did not object to, wall frescoes – presumably in the home – illustrating biblical scenes, such as the fight between David and Goliath, with descriptive wording (in Hebrew?) below (Shab. 149a). On the surface, it seems that Rashi is referring to a practice current among the well-to-do Jews of his own circle in northern France and the Rhineland in the 11th century. In the 12th century, the French tosafists discussed and permitted even the three-dimensional representation of the human form, provided that it was incomplete. At the very same time, Jews living in England are known to have used signet rings that bore a human likeness on them.
The emergence at this period of Jewish mint-masters (see *Minting) presupposes some involvement in the production of coins bearing the ruler's head, a tradition which goes back to the activity of
, who was the court jeweler at the Frankish court during approximately the middle of the sixth century C.E.
Hebrew manuscripts illuminated in the conventional sense, in accordance with European styles and techniques, began to emerge in Northern Europe not later than the 13th century. Certain inhibitions lingered as regards the human form, which in some manuscripts was quaintly provided with bird or animal heads (see color plate Laud Maḥzor vol. 11 between columns 812 and 813), thus observing at least marginally the biblical prohibition against representational art. Whether this indicates a stage in the decline of traditional inhibitions, or a momentary pietistic recession, is a matter for speculation. But toward the close of the Middle Ages the art of the illuminated manuscript – illuminated in the fullest sense – flourished in Northern Europe and spread to Italy. By the 14th century at the latest, the tradition had extended to Spain, where Christian rule was now in the ascendant. It is perhaps best exemplified in a fine series of illuminated
manuscripts, of which the Sarajevo Haggadah is the best known.
In some cases the artists were probably Jews (Nathan b. Simeon,
*Joel b. Simeon
, Meir Jaffe), while in others they were presumably Christians. But there is no need to assume that the work of the Jewish manuscript artists was necessarily restricted to Hebrew manuscripts and to a Jewish clientele. The work on mixing colors for manuscript illumination compiled in Judeo-Portuguese by Abraham ibn Ḥayyim suggests
a degree of involvement in the illuminating craft in its wider sense, even though none of his own productions is known. His was certainly not an isolated case. The Catalan Atlas, executed in 1376/7 by
and his son Judah, is noteworthy artistically besides being an important monument to cartography and geographical science. Jewish professional painters who are mentioned in contemporary documents include Abraham b. Yom Tov de Salinas with his son Bonastruc (1406), and Moses ibn Forma of Saragossa (1438), as well as Vidal Abraham who, in 1330, was engaged to illuminate the Book of Privileges of Majorca.
That Jews engaged in artistic craftsmanship even for Christian religious purposes is demonstrated by the bull of the anti-Pope
XIII of 1415, forbidding Jews to be employed in the making of ceremonial objects for Christian use such as chalices and crucifixes. In 1480, Isabella of Castile enjoined her court painter to ensure that no Jew be permitted to paint the figure of Jesus or the Virgin Mary. Official documents refer to Spanish Jews engaged in the manufacture of reliquaries and crucifixes and assisting sculptors of sacred images. It must be borne in mind that for the Middle Ages it is impossible to draw a sharp line of demarcation between the arts and the crafts because the craftsman in many branches was inevitably at the same time an artist in the modern sense. Bookbinding, for example, engaged Jewish craftsmen, even at the highly discriminating Papal court of Avignon; and, in Germany, Jewish experts such as the scribe-bookbinder, Meir Jaffe, mentioned above, were described as supreme artists in the execution of the difficult type of leather work known as cuir cisélé.
It must be emphasized that among the Jews pictorial art lacked one impetus which was potent in the outside world. The art of painting, especially frescoes, among Christians was stimulated by the fact that the Bible story was communicated to the almost illiterate common people by means of pictures on the walls of the churches. These served literally as the Biblia pauperum, the Bible of the Poor. For the Jews, with their high degree of literacy due to their almost universal system of education and their familiarity with the Scripture story, this was superfluous. Similarly, the cult of the saints rendered pictorial and plastic art essential in the church, whereas in the synagogue it was not needed. This is probably the reason for the late emergence of Jewish sculptors. It was not so much that Jews were opposed to art as that certain categories of art, essential in the world outside, were for them unnecessary.
In Italy, in the Renaissance period, Jews participated in every branch of activity, including the arts. Some of the most memorable illuminated Hebrew manuscripts belong to this epoch and there is good ground for believing that many of them came from unknown Jewish hands. Cases are recorded of Jews being admitted to the painters' guild, though none of their work can be identified. There were, however, some distinguished metal workers, such as Salomone da
(subsequently converted to Catholicism as Ercole de' Fedeli), who was in the service of Cesare Borgia. Da Sessa's swords and scabbards were among the finest of the period. His contemporary, Moses da
(d. 1527), was an engraver and medalist of some note. In the next century, Salvatore Rosa's assistant, Jonah Ostiglia of Florence (d. 1675), was proficient enough to be mentioned with deference by contemporary art chroniclers. A number of converted Italian artists of Jewish birth also achieved a reputation. Among them were Francesco Ruschi (c. 1640), a forerunner of the 18th century Venetian Renaissance, and Pietro Liberi (1614–1687), founder of the College of Artists in Venice. While names cannot be taken as conclusive evidence of origin, it must be noted that both in Spain and in Italy men named (de') Levi achieved artistic prominence in the 15th and 16th centuries.
It has already been mentioned that the Talmud has a general injunction that the glorification of God implies the use of the finest appurtenances in divine worship. There are ample descriptions both in the Bible and in Josephus of those used in the Temple. There are visual examples in the representations on the Arch of
in Rome and in the synagogal and funerary art of the classical period. But there is no proof of a specifically Jewish ritual art for home and synagogue until a relatively late period. It is perhaps significant that among the many evidences of Jewish religious life around the beginning of the Christian era discovered in recent archaeological investigations, there is nothing with any specific bearing on the emergence of ritual art, even as regards manuscript decoration. Generally in ritual observances objects were used which were not specially manufactured for the purpose. The only exception was the
lamp which, because it had to have a definite number of burners – eight or sometimes nine – was from an early date specially manufactured, first in clay and later in stone. During the Middle Ages, however, it became established practice to create objects specifically for every form of ritual use, thus emphasizing the "glorification of the mitzvah" ("hiddur mitzvah"). The manufacturers were not always Jews. It is paradoxical that while in some areas Jewish craftsmen are to be found executing objects of the most sacred nature, such as crucifixes, for church use – which must, from certain points of view, have been highly objectionable on both sides – in others there is evidence of Christian craftsmen producing some of the commonplace ritual objects required by the Jewish community. Contracts survive relating to such work for Jews in Provence in the 15th century and Frankfurt on the Main in the 16th. It must be noted, however, that with the exception of Hanukkah lamps, virtually no specimens of Jewish ritual art of a date earlier than the end of the Middle Ages have been traced. The earliest positively identifiable is a pair of rimmonim (Torah finials) from Sicily, preserved in the Cathedral of Palma, Majorca. The favorite objects of Jewish ritual art were the
cups, Seder plates,
lamps, and spice boxes for the
ceremony on the conclusion of the Sabbath. It is possible that
majolica seder plates originated in Spain before the Expulsion of 1492. An entire series was manufactured by several generations of two or three families of Italian-Jewish ceramists in the 17th and 18th centuries. Heavily embroidered brocades, with elaborate decorative inscriptions in gold and sometimes with human figures in stump-work, were used both in the synagogues, for the
curtains, or for the wrappings of the Torah Scroll, and in the home, for Sabbath appurtenances and the like. Often these were made by the women of the community as a pious duty, but in due course a school of Jewish art embroiderers emerged. Certain branches of embroidery were indeed regarded as a Jewish specialty during the period of the Middle Ages.
Surviving Jewish funerary art begins with the sepulchers and sarcophagi of the classical period in Palestine and the decorations in the catacombs of Rome and elsewhere. In the Middle Ages, Jewish tombstones in Europe were for the most part severely simple, owing whatever artistic quality they had to their shape and their impressive Hebrew lettering. After the Renaissance, funerary art began to take on some importance. Symbols indicating the name or profession of the person commemorated were carved above what were now highly ornamental inscriptions. In Italy, family badges – all but coats of arms – were added. In Central Europe, carvings denoting the calling or profession of the dead person were often incorporated. The most remarkable development was in some of the Sephardi communities of the Atlantic seaboard; such as Amsterdam and Curaçao, where the tombstone was enhanced by delicately executed carvings in relief. These generally depicted scenes in the life of the biblical personage whose name was borne by the dead person – for example, the call of Samuel, or the encounter between David and Abigail, or the death of Rachel. In some cases even the deathbed scene of the departed is shown, including, most amazingly, his actual likeness. The derivation of these artistic manifestations still needs investigation, but it seems at present that they were a purely spontaneous, native development in individual communities.
What is most significant is that here there are not flat surfaces but plastic art – precisely that which was most objectionable in talmudic law in its strict interpretation.
With the invention and spread of printing in the 15th and 16th centuries, a new area of artistic expression opened. The earliest printed books tried to imitate manuscript codices, and left space for illumination. This was the case with Hebrew works also, and there are some early examples which were embellished later by hand by skilled book-artists. In due course a genuine Jewish book art developed.
Early productions of the Hebrew printing press, especially of the
family, were decorated with elaborate borders on the opening pages. Sometimes these were borrowed or copied from non-Jewish productions; sometimes they were presumably original, perhaps in their turn to be copied by Christian printers. The early editions (Brescia, 1491, etc.) of the Meshal ha-Kadmoni by Isaac ibn
, following the example set by the 13th-century author, were accompanied by illustrations. Later on the practice was transmitted to other books of fables and similar literature. But as in the previous epoch, special care was lavished on the Passover
. At the beginning of the 16th century at the latest a fine series of illustrated editions, probably the work of Jewish hands, began to appear. These reached their apogee in the superb editions of Prague of 1526, Mantua of 1560 and 1568, Venice from 1609 onward, and finally the Amsterdam edition of 1695. When the first title pages appeared in printed books, early in the 16th century, these too received special attention.
It will by now have become apparent that it is no longer possible to maintain the commonly accepted generalization that Judaism was fundamentally opposed to representational art, or to give this as the reason for the late emergence of Jews as artists. The utmost that can be said is that in certain environments and at certain periods Jews either imitated the iconoclastic tendencies of their neighbors, as sometimes in Muslim countries, or, in revulsion against their iconolatry, as in some Catholic areas, developed a strong antipathy to such art. It is also true that Jews lacked the initial stimulus to artistic involvement which came to the Christian world from the lavish use of representational art for liturgical purposes in Roman Catholic churches. With these reservations, however, it can be said that Jews accepted representational art as a normal phenomenon of their lives, even in a religious context. They used it not only in the decoration of their homes (though curiously enough the evidence for this is somewhat thin), but in their liturgical manuscripts and printed books, especially the Passover Haggadah, and on cult objects such as Passover plates, Ḥanukkah lamps, spice boxes, and brocades. In some areas these representations were even introduced into the synagogue. Nor were representations of the human form restricted to plane surfaces: in metal work they were often three-dimensional. In some places in the Ashkenazi world, figures of Moses and Aaron were incorporated almost as a matter of convention in the appurtenances of the Torah – which was the central object of veneration in the synagogue – both in the brocade wrappings and in relief in the silver
which hung before the Scroll. Instances are known of such figures being included in the decoration of the Ark toward which the worshiper directed his devotions. Contrary to the universal belief, even the representation of the Deity was not entirely unknown. (See
in Jewish Art).
The art of illumination which had developed so promisingly in Spain, Italy, and Germany at the close of the Middle Ages did not die out. In the Italian Jewish upper classes and in the affluent circle of Court Jews which emerged in Germany in the 17th century, there was to be a notable renewal – it may be more correct to say perpetuation of the former tradition. There is some evidence that in
the Middle Ages it was customary for Jews to insert illuminations in the megillah from which they followed the reading of the story of Esther in the synagogue on the uninhibited feast of Purim. It may also be significant that the scenes connected with this same story received disproportionate attention in the third-century frescoes of Dura-Europos. Every well-to-do householder now wished to have an illuminated megillah. Normally, though not invariably, these seem to have been executed by Jewish artists and some were of really high artistic merit. From the 17th century onward, elaborately engraved borders were provided by competent artists, such as Shalom
, inside which the text would be written by hand. The case was similar with the marriage contract or
, expressing the joy implicit in the formation of a new family in the Jewish community. An isolated specimen has been preserved from the late 14th century, but from the 16th century these illuminated ketubbot became common especially in Italy, where some examples were veritable works of art. Some of the artists were probably Gentiles. Most were probably – and in a few cases provably – Jews. While in some countries and in some areas of ritual art the inhibition against the representation of the human figure was still rigorously applied, this was normally overlooked as far as the megillah and the ketubbah were concerned.
Apart from these and allied productions of illustrators and illuminators within the context of Jewish life, the art of Hebrew book-illumination was continued and in some cases revived in a remarkable fashion. Memorable Italian specimens of the 16th and 17th centuries have recently been brought to light, though in certain cases, the artists were almost certainly non-Jews. In the course of the 17th and 18th centuries, however, there grew up in Central and Northern Europe, especially in Moravia, Amsterdam, and Hamburg, an entire school of gifted Hebrew book-illuminators, who concentrated their attention on books of occasional prayers and benedictions (Me'ah Berakhot), circumcision rituals and similar works. The favorite was the Passover Haggadah. As in the Middle Ages, wealthy householders vied with one another in having these executed, sometimes as gifts for brides or newly married couples. They were often based on the older printed prototypes, especially of the Amsterdam Haggadah of 1695, but were sometimes rendered with a remarkable inventive power of reinterpretation and a fine sense of color. Outstanding among these manuscript artists were Samuel Dresnitz (1720), Aaron Wolf Herlingen of Gewitsch (c. 1700–c. 1768), and Moses Leib
(1723). In certain cases, as for example the Pinḥas family, this involvement in manuscript illumination led to a general training in art and the consequent emergence of artists in the conventional sense.
Meanwhile, in the Sephardi community of Amsterdam, a school of gifted
was beginning to appear. The title pages executed for their finely written Spanish or Portuguese manuscripts, sometimes embodying charming vignettes, were works of art, and a few were in due course engraved.
From the 1970s there have been significant new developments in the field of Jewish art. Side by side with increased awareness of the role which the visual arts played in Jewish life, new discoveries have been made and a considerable number of previously little or unknown objects, images, and monuments have come to the fore. The major political events which took place during this period had their impact as well, adding new information and materials. Collections that had been unavailable for decades are now open to the public and accessible to scholars. Paralleling and supporting this growth is the increase in the scholarly publications in Jewish art, including the foundation of an important periodical (Journal of Jewish Art) by
in 1974; as well as growing public awareness in the field, expressed in interests in Judaic exhibitions, lectures, travels to Jewish monuments, and even the production and acquisition of contemporary Jewish art.
In the public arena, the most visible phenomenon concerns the growth of Jewish museums from the last quarter of the 20th century. New museums were established in many towns throughout the Jewish world – from Casablanca to Melbourne, and from Casale Monferrato, Italy, to Raleigh, North Carolina. The recent proliferation of Jewish museums is particularly noticeable in Germany, where many new museums opened towards the close of the 20th century, ranging from small display rooms (e.g., Bissingen, Creglingen) to impressive and sizeable buildings (Berlin, Frankfurt). Many of the small German museums are housed in former synagogues – nearly a hundred of them have been restored to date, especially after the reunification of Germany. In Israel the fashionable search for tangible personal and communal roots has led to the establishment of small "ethnic" museums – notably, Nahon Museum of Italian-Jewish Art in Jerusalem, Museum and Heritage Center of Babylonian Jewry in Or Yehudah, and the museum commemorating the heritage of the Jews from Cochin (Kochi), India, in Moshav Nevatim in the Negev. Along with the established institutions, the new museums play a vital role in increasing the awareness and knowledge of Jewish visual culture and encourage the collection and preservation of Judaic objects, whether from the remote past or the last generations. The stream of large and impressive catalogs that accompanied many of the exhibitions organized by the leading museums constitutes important sources for documentation and scholarly research in the field of Jewish art.
Even before the fall of the Soviet Union treasures hidden behind the Iron Curtain were displayed in the West. It took 15 years of private and public efforts on the highest levels before the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic allowed the landmark exhibition, "The Precious Legacy" – based on the collections of the Jewish Museum in Prague – to tour the United States in 1983. However, the Perestroika brought about many more opportunities for international partnerships and for presentations of significant collections of ceremonial, folk, and ethnographic Jewish art. Some of these collections, for example the collection of more than 400 silver ritual objects at the Museum
of Historical Treasures of the Ukraine, Kiev – comprised largely of objects confiscated by the Soviets from many synagogues in the Ukraine in the 1920s and 1930s with the idea of melting them down for the silver – has been fully restored, displayed for the first time to the general public, traveled to capitals abroad, and been the subject of several catalogs. The opening of the borders has allowed, in addition, first hand documentation projects, chiefly conducted by the Center for Jewish Art, Jerusalem, which was founded in 1979 by Bezalel Narkiss with the purpose of documenting and publishing Jewish art treasures. The CJA's researchers have been documenting ceremonial objects, illuminated manuscripts, works by Jewish artists, and the architecture and interior decoration of synagogues, in Israel and abroad, often in locales that could not be visited earlier.
The hopes of scholars to unearth another ancient synagogue with painted walls have not materialized in the decades that have passed since the amazing discovery of the
synagogue in 1932. On the other hand, an exciting and unexpected discovery was made in the summer of 1993, when a well-preserved early fifth century synagogue was uncovered in the talmudic town of Sepphoris (Zippori). The synagogue nave's splendid floor mosaic, comprised of 14 richly decorated panels, has enriched Jewish iconography of the period and provided some new insights into the familiar motifs. Thus, for example, the ubiquitous zodiac cycle significantly deviates from its familiar depictions in the other five ancient synagogues, and exceptionally replaces the pagan sun god, Helios, with a non-figurative image of sun rays. Likewise, the popular Binding of Isaac scene, known from two other synagogues, presents some motifs and episodes in the story that are new to Jewish iconography of this period, though familiar from Christian art. The overall iconographic scheme of the floor has been interpreted as expressing the hope for redemption and the rebuilding of the Temple.
Another major development in the past decades concerns the growing attention to Jewish art and material culture emanating from Islamic lands. Prior to 1970, hardly any attention had been paid to this field of Jewish creativity, whether in the public at large, the world of Jewish museums, or even the scholarly community. Viewed as inferior to European Jewish art, little was done to either conduct fieldwork or save the art treasures from Arab lands before the mass immigration to Israel, and serious negligence followed the resettlement. This situation has changed from the last quarter of the 20th century, and especially in Israel considerable efforts have been made by museums and scholars to display and study the visual heritage of these communities. The Israel Museum in particular has been active in this field and its department of Jewish ethnography has mounted from the mid-1960s on major exhibits accompanied by large catalogs, each dedicated to a selected community. Starting in 1967, with a modest exhibition and catalog on the costumes and some artifacts of the Jews of Bukhara, there followed more comprehensive presentations on the communities of Morocco (1973), Kurdistan (1981), the Ottoman Empire (1990), India (1995), Afghanistan (1998), Yemen (2000), and the Mountain Jews of Azerbaijan (2001). Parallel to these exhibits, studies by local scholars as well as some Americans and Europeans, deal with the art and cultural context of the jewelry, costumes, domestic wares, ceremonial art, and manuscript illumination, in particular the figurative Judeo-Persian miniatures. A monograph by Bracha Yaniv was dedicated to the Torah case (tik) in Islamic lands (1997), while in Shalom Sabar's studies on the illustrated ketubbah the examples from Islamic lands are examined side by side with those from other parts of the Jewish world.
The monographs mentioned illustrate another recent trend. While most of the monographs in Jewish art in the past were dedicated to the study of selected Hebrew manuscripts, scholars have been focusing in addition on particular categories of Jewish art. In addition to the Torah case and ketubbah, mention should be made of Torah crowns (Grafman), Hanukkah lamps (Braunstein), Shivviti tablets (Juhasz), papercuts (Shadur), the Wimpel (various authors), synagogues in general and individual buildings in particular (Krinsky, Hubka). There are still, however, many categories missing from this list. Another direction of research, which more closely follows recent trends in the general scholarship of cultural studies, emerged in the 1990s, dealing with the visual experience in Jewish life and culture. Scholars like Richard Cohen, Barbara Kirschenblatt-Gimblett, Margaret Olin, and Kalman Bland, expanded the traditional methodological tools in which Jewish art has been examined, exploring issues such as Jewish art and social studies, historiography of Jewish art, collecting and exhibiting Jewish culture, Jewish attitudes to the visual, etc. Other studies explore the Jewish experience via folk art and daily artifacts, such as New Year cards or cans of Jewish food, as well as the interaction between sacred objects and the people who use them (Joselit, Sabar). The new studies have demonstrated the importance and relevance of the visual to the other, largely text-based, disciplines of Jewish studies, which would open the field to new stimulating cultural discourses.
D. Altshuler (ed.), The Precious Legacy: Judaic Treasures from the Czechoslovak State Collections (1983); K.P. Bland, The Artless Jew: Medieval and Modern Affirmations and Denials of the Visual (2000); S. Braunstein, Five Centuries of Hanukkah Lamps from the Jewish Museum (2004); G. Cohen Grossman, Jewish Museums of the World (2003); R.I. Cohen, Jewish Icons: Art and Society in Modern Europe (1998); T. Hubka, Resplendent Synagogues: Architecture and Worship in an Eighteenth Century Polish Community (2003). J.W. Joselit, The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture, 1880–1950 (1995); E. Juhasz, "The "Shiviti-Menorah": A Representation of the Sacred – Between Spirit and Matter" (Ph.D. thesis, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2004); R. Grafman, Crowning Glory: Silver Ornaments of the Jewish Museum (1996); B. Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage (1998); C.H Krinsky, Synagogues of Europe: Architecture, History, Meaning, Cambridge (1985); M. Olin, The Nation Without Art: Examining Modern Discourses on Jewish Art (2001); Past Perfect: The Jewish Experience in Early 20th Century Postcards, Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York (1998); S. Sabar, Ketubbah: Jewish Marriage Contracts
of the Hebrew Union College Skirball Museum and Klau Library (1990); W. Seipel (ed.), Thora und Krone: Kultgeraete der juedischen Diaspora in der Ukraine (1993); Y. and J. Shadur, Traditional Jewish Papercuts (2002); A. Weber et al. (eds.), Mappot …blessed be who comes: The Band of Jewish Tradition (1997); Z. Weiss, The Sepphoris Synagogue: Deciphering an Ancient Message through Its Archaeological and Socio-Historical Contexts (2005); B. Yaniv, The Torah Case: Its History and Design (Heb., 1997).
[Shalom Sabar (2nd ed.)]
The definition of Jewish art in the modern period is complex. Formerly, it consisted of objects made for Jewish use, but now it is rarely linked to the Jewish community. Instead, Jewish artists are fully integrated into secular international art and make major contributions to avant-garde movements. Some bow to the pressures of conformity and try to assimilate, and even if they express themselves as Jews, they do so in non-traditional ways. For many of them, the interplay between secular and Jewish factors in their art is problematic. This has led scholars to debate whether all Jews who are artists produce Jewish art or only those who stress their Jewish identity.
Furthermore, modern Jewish art developed parallel to the uneven process of Jewish emancipation that began in the United States and France in the late 18th century, spread through Western and Central Europe between the 1830s and 1870s, and reached Eastern Europe towards the end of the century. Due to this variable chronology, a "first generation" of emancipated Jewish artists continued to be produced into the 20th century, when those who arrived in the West from Eastern Europe faced the same problems that had confronted Jewish artists throughout the 19th century. To complicate matters, although the 18th and 19th centuries produced a few Jewish women artists, the majority began their careers only in the 20th century and were more concerned with problems of gender than of religion. Moreover, the return of Jews to Palestine and the establishment of the State of Israel produced artists who saw themselves as Israelis more than as Jews, while the emigration of Jewish artists from the former Soviet Union produced a reversed Emancipation, allowing them to express their Jewish identity freely. Finally, the gay liberation movement led some Jewish artists at the end of the 20th century to liken coming out of the closet as homosexuals to the problems involved in declaring Jewish identity in art.
In spite of this, modern Jewish art has certain basic characteristics. First of all, despite attempts to establish a "Jewish style," Jewish artists preferred to adopt normative styles in order to be accepted. At first they conformed to academic norms, but from the mid-19th century, they began to take part in avant-garde movements. Yet although they failed, the attempts to develop a "Jewish style" are instructive. In the 1870s Vladimir Stasov, a non-Jewish Russian critic, encouraged
to develop a Jewish national art utilizing Jewish subject matter and an "eastern semitic" style. His ideas on this style are disclosed by his suggestion that the St. Petersburg synagogue be built in the "Arab-Moorish" style and his participation in publishing a book on the ornamental illumination of medieval Hebrew manuscripts from the Cairo Genizah. He thus proposed both the adoption of Near Eastern styles and a return to Oriental Jewish sources. Antokolsky did not agree to create a Jewish school of art, but he was stimulated to plan a Jewish art school to promulgate handicrafts that were widespread as folk art among Russian Jews. He felt that this education would expose Jews to art and provide them with a livelihood. He thus suggested that folk art was a form of national artistic expression.
Stasov's theories and Antokolsky's plans inspired two simultaneous movements: Russian artists created modern Jewish art based on folk art, and the
*Bezalel School of Art
was founded in Jerusalem and incorporated Oriental art into its style. These two trends expressed two views of the future: the first called for a continuation of Jewish culture in the Diaspora; the second for a new start to Jewish life in the Holy Land.
The Russian approach was also influenced by
idea that emancipated Jews could build a secular Jewish identity on Jewish folk culture.
both welcomed this secular identity and felt close to folk art, claiming the painter of the Mogilev synagogue as his forefather. In St. Petersburg and Paris, he absorbed avant-garde art styles, one of which – Primitivism – acclaimed the aesthetic power of folk and tribal art. Chagall developed a style that translated Jewish themes into a folk art idiom, and later added Fauvist and Cubist elements to it. This union of Jewish folk art with modern styles was taken up by
, who joined Chagall in a Jewish art movement that reached its apogee directly after the Russian Revolution. The clearest expressions of this style are Chagall's murals for the State Jewish Chamber Theater in Moscow (1920) and Lissitzky's Had Gadya illustrations (1918–19).
Shortly thereafter, Lissitzky and Altman abandoned this style to join the Russian abstract artists in developing their own revolutionary style. Chagall, who left Russia in 1922, also abandoned this style, but retained a naïve quality in his art and occasionally incorporated folk art motifs into it.
In the mid-1920s, Soviet art enforced the use of Socialist Realism, but this type of Jewish art survived in
copies of Jewish folk art in his illustrations. These inspired Michael Grobman in the 1960s to portray Russian and Jewish legends using strange creatures rendered in a folk art style. After Grobman moved to Israel in 1971, he began using bright colors, Hebrew and Russian texts, and kabbalistic symbols in his work. These elements also appear in the art of Grisha Bruskin, where traditional Jews stand beside strange monsters and angels on a background of Hebrew script which defines the figures in kabbalistic terms. He draws on medieval manuscripts, folk art, and Surrealism, blending them in a "naïve" manner. Whereas Grobman and Bruskin use folk art and modern styles in different ways than had Chagall, Lissitzky, and Altman, they are impelled by the same understanding of what Jewish national art should be and by the same need to stress their national identity.
The second movement began in 1906 when
established the Bezalel School of Art in Jerusalem to teach local Jews to produce art. Influenced by Stasov, Schatz sought to create a Jewish art indigenous to the Near East that would visually express the Jews' return to their land. He united academic Jewish art with contemporary Oriental motifs, and used Oriental Jewish models clothed in Bedouin garb for biblical scenes as both were seen as authentic evidence of the biblical past. Schatz sent the European-born teachers to Istanbul, Damascus, and Cairo to learn Oriental crafts, employed Oriental Jews as experts to weave carpets designed by European students, and taught Yemenite jewelers an "improved" filigree technique. The resulting art was highly eclectic, and only the reaction against Bezalel by young artists in the 1920s would amalgamate these ideas into a coherent style.
These young artists revolted against Schatz's anti-modernist diktats, establishing a Hebrew (as opposed to a Jewish) Artists Association to stress their independence from the Diaspora, but they retained Schatz's ideas. They developed his Orientalist use of models into a cult of the Arab, and tried to create a Jewish national art by combining Near Eastern – i.e., ancient Egyptian, Assyrian, or Byzantine – modes of depiction with the contemporary classical styles of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. They added a "childlike" quality they deemed appropriate to a newborn national art, turning for inspiration to the French naïve artist Henri Rousseau.
This synthesis is evident in
Dancers of Meron (1926). The style of his ḥasidic Jews is based on "Eastern" Byzantine church murals from his native Romania; the inclined perspective and individually drawn plants recall naïve art; while the broad, almost flat planes of color were inspired by Matisse.
presented a different combination in his Goatherd (1926) whose stance is adapted from Egyptian art. Gutman uses this style to make the figure seem both archaic and continuously indigenous to the country, but the plasticity of the body and the childlike background also recall the art of Picasso and Rousseau.
During the 1930s, influenced by Arab onslaughts and the rise of Nazism in Europe, Palestinian Jewish artists rejected this style in favor of a specifically Jewish art. They turned to the Expressionism of the Jewish artists in Paris, an art that was Jewish only because of its authors' origins. At the end of the 1930s, Zionism again inspired artists to return to the ancient Near East in search of a national style, but this time they turned to the archeological excavations that were uncovering Jewish roots in Palestine.
based his sculpture Nimrod (1939) on ancient Near Eastern art. The very stone from which it is carved – Nubian sandstone from Petra – unites him with the land and its ancient peoples.
based his pictographic style of the mid-1940s on the naïve figures in the Sacrifice of Isaac from the sixth century mosaic in the Bet Alpha synagogue, thus connecting modern art in Palestine with that practiced there by Jews in ancient times. Later, he used the ancient Hebrew alphabet and figures culled from Mesopotamian cylinder seals to create "ancient Jewish steles" made of colored ground basalt, a technique developed by the Spaniard Antoni Tápies. Rather than waiting for archeologists to uncover proof of Jewish residence in the land, he produced his own "documents" confirming it.
was also influenced by Sumerian and Canaanite images, but turned as well to traditional Jewish sources, borrowing from medieval Hebrew manuscripts and using kabbalistic signs. He felt that the pagan elements in ancient Israelite life could not exist without a traditional Jewish mystical context, and that both must be incorporated into the new Israeli culture in order for it to survive.
Both the Russian and Israeli artists who wished to create a modern Jewish style blended elements from the Jewish past with those taken from contemporary art. Although both models presented viable options for a national style, they were not generally espoused. Even the idea of such a style was not accepted by most Jewish artists, who preferred to adopt the modern styles around them.
In like manner, Jewish artists often adopted contemporary subject matter. Whereas in the 19th century many of them expressed the problems they encountered in emerging from the ghetto and maintaining their Jewish identity in a Christian world, those who arrived from Eastern Europe in the 20th century often embraced secular Western art, preferring not to stress their Jewish roots. Moreover, those who had received a liberal education from emancipated parents preferred neutral subject matter and joined movements that stressed landscape and portrait painting in the 19th century and abstraction in the 20th century. Most of these artists believed that art was an international language and wanted to make their mark as individuals and not as Jews. This approach was also shared by Jewish photographers (e.g.,
), gallery owners (e.g., Herwarth Walden), collectors (e.g., Joseph Hirshhorn), and art critics (e.g., Clement Greenberg). They all would have agreed with Greenberg's advice: "Jewishness, insofar as it has to be asserted in a predominantly Gentile world, should be a personal rather than a mass demonstration." At the same time, many Israelis opted for international styles and neutral subjects, espousing the Zionist desire for normalcy, "to be like unto the nations," while having a nation of their own.
Yet neutral subjects could be adapted to Jewish use. Thus
portraits of converted Jews and of those who succeeded while remaining faithful to their religion, express the problems confronting Jews in 19th century Germany. In Russia during a year of pogroms
placed a Jewish Tombstone (1881) in a landscape. In like manner,
gave Jewish meaning to their abstract works through their theories and titles, although the latter have to be translated into Hebrew to be fully understood.
On the other hand, some Jewish artists sought to express their Judaism in their art, often as part of a dialogue with Christians. One method, the depiction of traditional Jewish life, developed three main approaches in the 19th century. On the one hand, artists such as Oppenheim and
painted cheerful scenes of ghetto life, stressing religious rites and a pleasant atmosphere. These works were intended to strengthen the roots of emancipated Jews by showing them nostalgic views of their grandparents' lifestyle which they had cast off, and to prove the inherent beauty of traditional Jewish life to Christians who were curious about the "exotic" Jews around them. Later artists, such as Yehuda Pen, inspired by a Romantic wish to return to their roots, turned from assimilation to depicting the lifestyle of the Orthodox Jewish community. Still later, nostalgic views of shtetl life, such as those by Chagall and
, were used to memorialize a way of life that was slowly disappearing and was totally destroyed in the Holocaust.
The second, more pessimistic approach was developed in Eastern Europe by Antokolsky and
who stressed the poverty and sufferings of the Jews to arouse pity and sympathy. Their works were inspired by the misery they saw around them and by the pogroms in Eastern Europe in the second half of the 19th century, both of which led to mass emigration. Their iconography influenced artists who depicted the hardships of traditional Jewish life during World War I and its destruction in World War II.
The third approach depicted tensions between Jews and Christians. In Oppenheim's Lavater and Lessing Visit Moses Mendelssohn (1856), Mendelssohn affirms Judaism despite Johann Caspar Lavater's demands that he convert. The intricacies of the dispute are suggested by the chessboard set between them, but the woman bringing in a tea tray suggests that all will end amicably. In contrast, in The Spanish Inquisition Breaking in on a Marrano Seder (1868), Antokolsky symbolized the fears of Jews in Russia where sudden arrest was common, and stated his belief that assimilation would not save Jews from persecution.
Whereas such problems continued to occupy Jews, some 20th century artists turned instead to confrontations within the Jewish community.
Dancing Lesson (1926) sets portraits of the Orthodox Russian grandparents above the religious but modern parents, who worriedly regard the young couple attempting to assimilate into American life by dancing to the tune of the boy's harmonica.
A different dialogue with the Christian world utilized Christian themes such as the legend of Ahasver who – like the Jewish people – is doomed to eternal wandering for rejecting Jesus.
gave this image a positive twist in 1876 by portraying himself in this role as a crowned prince. He thereby stressed pride in his Judaism, but his expression conveys his melancholy at being an outcast from Christian society. In contrast, Hirszenberg's Exile (1904) used this image to show the Jew as a modern refugee heading towards an unknown destination. Hirszenberg's denunciation of Christian antisemitism is even clearer in his rendering of Ahasver fleeing amidst a sea of crosses at the feet of which lie his massacred fellow Jews (1899).
The symbolic image that had the most impact on this type of dialogue was that of Jesus restored to his historical milieu. Antokolsky's Ecce Homo (1873) stressed Jesus' Judaism through his facial features, side locks, skullcap, and striped garment. Inspired by the Odessa pogrom, Antokolsky wanted his statue to remind Christians that persecuting Jesus's brothers perverted his teachings. The use of a Jewish Jesus to combat antisemitism became widespread in modern Jewish art, and Chagall's White Crucifixion (1938) used this imagery to symbolize Jewish victims in the Holocaust.
This dialogue, as well as problems within the Jewish community, led Jewish artists to inject new meanings into Old Testament themes. This practice began in the early 19th century in works by converted Jews. Thus Mendelssohn's grandson Philipp Veit and his fellow Nazarenes decorated the reception room of his converted relative, the Prussian consul Jacob Salomon Bartholdy, with the story of Joseph. This suggests that Bartholdy had a Jewish precedent both for his high office and for assuming the manners – and in his case, the religion – of a non-Jewish court. In a different vein,
expressed the despair at Judaism's fate that led to his conversion by painting mournful scenes: By the Waters of Babylon (1832) and Jeremiah on the Ruins of Jerusalem (ca. 1834–35).
Early Zionist artists also turned to the Old Testament.
Jerusalem (1896) depicts the old exiles in Babylon sitting withdrawn or praying, while younger generations look past the river dreaming of the homeland, thus expressing the hope engendered in the young by Zionism. In like manner, Ephraim Moïse
depicted Theodor Herzl as Moses (1907–8), and created a parallel between the longing for the Promised Land of a Jew bound in slavery in Egypt and that of a European Jew trapped by thorns (1902). In the Jerusalem River Project (1970), Joshua Neustein, Gerard Marx, and Georgette Battle set loudspeakers along a wadi to bring the sound of rushing water to Jerusalem's dry environment, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah that when Israel is redeemed, "live waters will come forth out of Jerusalem."
Old Testament imagery was also used for personal expression. For instance,
used his illustrations to the Song of Songs (1857, 1865–68) to express his homosexuality and the despair it caused him, while
used their namesake, Jacob, wrestling with the angel to express their own struggles with inspiration during times of crisis (1932, 1940–41).
Biblical images were also employed to express the Holocaust and the birth of the State of Israel. Thus Lipchitz depicted David killing a Nazi Goliath (1933) to demonstrate Jewish resistance to the Nazis, and many artists utilized the Sacrifice of Isaac and Job to symbolize Holocaust victims. After the War of Independence,
used Cain and Abel to portray the war between brothers; Jacob and Esau embracing to express the coveted peace; and Hagar as an outcast Arab refugee. Recently, contemporary artists have been inspired by their times to develop new interpretations. For instance, before leaving Russia, Vitaly
placed seven photographs of the first page of the text of the Prophet Obadiah (1976) in graded degrees of darkness, suggesting that they see
their Jewish origins as fluctuating from readability to impenetrability. In like manner, in The Liberation of God (1990–96), Helene Aylon underlined all the places in the Old Testament in which the patriarchy was stressed as part of her feminist reassessment of Judaism.
After World War II, biblical imagery was also used to call for reconciliation between Judaism and Christianity. Chagall injected his crucified Jewish Jesus into Old Testament paintings that he wished to house in an interfaith chapel to promote peace by stressing Jesus' Jewish origins to members of both religions. In like manner, the Catholic Church began commissioning Jewish artists to decorate churches such as that at Assy, but the resulting works contain Jewish as well as Christian messages. Lipchitz's statue of the Virgin there shows an un-inhabited mantle, with only the hands visible, brought down to earth by a dove. For a Catholic, this is a perfect rendering of the Immaculate Conception; for Lipchitz it was a way not to represent the Virgin. His inscription on the back dedicates the work to a better understanding between the two faiths. Chagall decorated the Assy Baptistery with a large Crossing of the Red Sea, a Christian prefiguration of baptism. However, at the top of the mural, a Wandering Jew leads the Exodus away from the crucified Christ towards Israel, symbolized by King David and the Tower of David. Such interplays remind us that in interfaith relations each side interprets events according to its own beliefs.
Jewish and Christian artists were also commissioned to produce art for the many synagogues and Jewish community centers that were built from 1945 on. Whereas most Christians produced art deemed appropriate for Jewish use, Jewish artists often felt free to express their own views. This is also true of Jewish book illustration: Arieh Allweil gave his Haggadah a Zionist reading (after 1948), while
infused his ambiguous feelings towards Judaism into the version he illustrated (1974).
Another common theme in the 19th century expressed the emancipated Jewish artists' feeling that due to their art they had no place in Jewish society: artists such as Gottlieb, Hirszenberg and Jacob
Meyer *de Haan
identified with outcasts such as Uriel Acosta and Baruch Spinoza. In the 20th century artists were more concerned with their tenuous place as Jews in contemporary society, and manifested this problem in various ways. Chagall hid his often sarcastic messages about the Christian world by translating Yiddish idioms into visual images that could only be understood by Yiddish speakers, and
and Baskin incorporated Hebrew texts into their works that added dimensions of meaning that were not open to the general public. Many of
works deal with problems of non-belonging. He depicted himself symbolically as Marrano (The Secret Jew) (1976), and identified with all outsiders in his book The First Diasporist Manifesto (1989).
This outsider stance also connects Jews with other minorities, an identification espoused by Jewish artists with a strong social conscience. Josef *Israels and
portrayed poor fishermen and peasants in Europe in the 19th century, while the Americans
, and Shahn depicted those rendered poor and homeless by the Depression. They and younger artists, such as
, later identified with Afro-Americans, believing they were expressing the humanistic doctrines that they saw as Judaism's contribution to American life.
This affinity with the other assumed another dimension in Israeli art. In the 1920s, seeking to reconnect with the land, artists such as Rubin and Gutman identified with Arab fishermen and shepherds. This tendency stopped with the Arab attacks on Jews in 1929, but was revived in the 1950s in depictions of the Bedouin with whom Israel lived at peace, who were seen as living in harmony with the land. Steinhardt painted them, while Danzinger sculpted sheep to resemble Bedouin tents.
developed this concept by adapting into his sculptures the way they tie material to trees in their sacred groves. All these works express a desire for peaceful coexistence, but Tumarkin also dealt with land as a holy object for which blood is shed. Another type of identification developed after 1967, when Tumarkin pointed out the similarity between the former situation of the Jews and that of present-day Palestinian refugees.
Identification with the other can also be linked to criticism of one's own group and even to self-hate. Whereas Alphonse Lévy portrayed Jews with ironic humor, Chagall criticized Jewish traditions. In Sabbath (1910) the colors and the expressions of the figures create a hellish atmosphere, while in Succoth (1914) the unconscious wish of the Jew who is about to enter a dark synagogue is expressed by a small figure on his head who turns to go the other way.
, who saw himself as a socialist-anarchist, depicted hook-nosed Jewish bankers carrying the Golden Calf in an 1890 drawing, and
who lost a leg in the Holocaust, portrayed repulsive Orthodox Jews.
displayed self-hate by making his own features as ugly as possible. In his series of slaughtered animals, he drenched their carcasses with blood to enrich their color, an action often interpreted as a willful violation of Jewish dietary laws.
In conclusion, the interplay between the personal and the historical has shaped the fabric of modern Jewish art: the artists' choices depend on their background, their attitude to the modern world, and that world's attitude to them. To be accepted in the Christian world they developed a number of strategies: some assimilated into the dominant culture, while others used both "normal" and Jewish subject matter, or expressed their identity in hidden ways. Some chose to be outsiders or had this status thrust upon them by antisemitism or by feelings that the Jewish community rejected them. At other times, they tried to use their art as a bridge between their two worlds, utilizing Christian imagery or socially relevant themes to this end. The creation of Israeli art did not change this situation, although it added its own variations to the characteristics of modern Jewish art. Despite a wish to participate in the international and secular character of modern
art in which artists move easily from one country and culture to another, owing allegiance only to Art, many Jewish and Israeli artists at some point reconnected in their art with their Jewish identity.
Z. Amishai-Maisels, "Jewish Artists from the 18th Century to the Present Day," in: G. Sed-Rajna et. al., Jewish Art (1997), esp. 325–36, 358–64, 494–96, 509; R. Apter-Gabriel (ed.), Tradition and Revolution: The Jewish Renaissance in Russian Avant-Garde Art 1912–1928 (1987); M. Baigell, Jewish Artists in New York: The Holocaust Years (2002); M. Baigell and M. Heyd (eds.), Complex Identities: Jewish Consciousness and Modern Art (2001); R.I. Cohen, Jewish Icons: Art and Society in Modern Europe (1998); S.T. Goodman (ed.), The Emergence of Jewish Artists in Nineteenth-Century Europe (2001); idem (ed.), Russian Jewish Artists in a Century of Change (1995); M. Heyd, Mutual Reflections: Jews and Blacks in American Art (2001); A. Kampf, Chagall to Kitaj: The Jewish Experience in 20th Century Art (1990); N. Kleeblatt and S. Chevlowe, Painting a Place in America: Jewish Artists in New York, 1900–1945 (1991); N. Kleeblatt (ed.), Too Jewish? Challenging Traditional Identities (1996); K.E. Silver, Circle of Montparnasse: Jewish Artists in Paris, 1905–1945 (1985); C.M. Soussloff (ed.), Jewish Identity in Modern Art History (1999).
[Ziva Amishai-Maisels (2nd ed.)]
The removal of legal and social restrictions in the wake of Emancipation opened the way for West European Jews to engage in the arts. However, at first quite a few Jews chose to take up art as a civil profession. Among them was
Moritz Daniel *Oppenheim
(1800–1882). From the early stages of his career Oppenheim was aware of the bias between his own Jewish tradition, where the visual arts had played only a minor part so far, and the attitude of the surrounding society which considered art as a supreme expression of European culture. His first monumental painting, Moses Holding the Tablets of the Law, is like a manifesto of his self-awareness as a Jewish artist. After a brief acquaintance with the "Nazarene" movement in Rome, where he had been shunned as a "Jewish outsider" despite his obvious artistic talents, Oppenheim turned towards painting in a naturalist style. He acknowledged the need to accommodate himself to the requirements of an emerging German bourgeois society and became a successful genre painter, portraitist, and art dealer in Frankfurt, serving Jewish as well as non-Jewish clients. Committed to the progress of the Jewish cause throughout his life, he created several highly significant historical representations such as The Return of the Jewish Volunteer (1833), Moses Mendelssohn Playing Chess with Lavater (1856) and Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Playing for Goethe (1864) to demonstrate Jewish civility but also his ability as a Jewish painter of history. Yet it was only in the mid-1860s that he gained lasting reputation as painter of the Scenes from Traditional Jewish Family Life, a series of genre scenes which conveyed religious traditions from the Age of the Ghetto as a source of cultural inspiration. In this case, the customers were foremost Jews, although the printed series had been prepared to address also a non-Jewish public. Subsequently Oppenheim was considered primarily as "the First Jewish painter," a specialist able to fulfil the specific needs of the emerging bourgeois Jewish public.
The career of Moritz Daniel Oppenheim offers a good insight in the kind of challenge that artists of Jewish origin encountered in the 19th century. They were facing not only increasing demands for diversion of a bourgeois society but also had to deal with their own Jewishness as the base of their artistic experience, and moreover were consistently exposed to latent antisemitic feelings.
The most radical solution of the problem was offered by conversion, and this was the case of Philipp Veit (1793–1877), a grandson of Moses Mendelssohn. After his conversion, he became one of the leading members of the Roman Catholic "Nazarene" group, whose rebellion against classicism led to an attempt to infuse a new style into European art on the base of a revival of Christian, i.e. medieval and Renaissance, painting. Veit's talents as a painter of the new style ensured him a successful public career, and eventually he was awarded the position of the director of the municipal Academy of the Arts in Frankfurt, a post never offered to Moritz Daniel Oppenheim. Somewhat similar was the case of
(1799–1872). Both came from apostate wealthy Jewish families and were celebrated painters of their time. Bendemann specialized in large historical compositions, obtained many public commissions and eventually followed Wilhelm Schadow as head of the Duesseldorf academy, while Eduard Magnus became a much sought-after portraitist of the Prussian Royal court and the Berlin "haute bourgeoisie."
As a British citizen, it seems to have been somewhat easier for
Solomon Alexander *Hart
(1806–1881) to ensure a successful public career without being forced to conceal or to defend incessantly his Jewish identity. His realistic paintings of Interior of a Jewish Synagogue and The Feast of Rejoicing the Law were well received and did not impair his election as a full member of the Royal Academy. However, he concentrated on presenting English historical and literary scenes, which were fashionable at the time, as he did not wish to be seen as "the painter merely of religious scenes." His compatriot Abraham Solomon (1823–1862) first presented some Jewish subjects, but later he and his sister Rebecca (1832–1886) painted small, brilliantly colored moral themes from 16th- and 17th- century dramas as well as genre scenes of mid-Victorian society. In the 1860s, both Rebecca and her younger brother
(1840–1905) became acquainted with the circle of Pre-Raphaelite artists, and Simeon soon established a reputation for his Jewish religious subjects such as Carrying the Scrolls of the Law painted in the Pre-Raphaelite style. Encouraged by Swinburne and Burne-Jones, he also created themes of Christian or classical pagan background and of religious mysticism sometimes figuring androgynous figures of an idealized male beauty. Arrested in 1873 and convicted for indecency, he was unable to pursue his artistic career and died in poverty.
Solomon J. *Solomon
(1860–1927) remained attached to Jewish affairs throughout his life and
painted numerous biblical subjects as well as scenes of contemporary Anglo-Jewish life such as High Tea in the Sukkah. But this in no way hindered his success as a fashionable portrait painter for Edwardian society following the tradition of Joshua Reynolds and Lawrence. In 1894, he became a member of the Royal Academy. He was followed by
Sir William *Rothenstein
(1872–1945), an English impressionist who painted delicate landscapes and some remarkable synagogue interiors. In all, the first two generations of Anglo-Jewish painters were able to uphold their Jewish identity without impediment but chose to follow the artistic mainstream of their country which ensured a wider recognition of their artistic talents.
Likewise, the French painters Jacques-Emile-Edouard Brandon (1831–1897) and Edouard Moyse (1827–1908), both of the first generation of French-Jewish artists, also enjoyed freedom of choice regarding their careers. Like their English colleagues, they painted Jewish subjects alongside Christian ones in an academic style, although Brandon became acquainted with Corot, Degas, and Moreau. His initial success derived from a series of works depicting the life of Saint Brigitte, a subject highly fashionable in the time of Napoleon III. In later life, however, he concentrated on Jewish subjects like A Synagogue Interior – "The Amidah." Edouard Moyse shared an interest in Jewish subjects with Brandon and painted intimate portraits of rabbis as well as scenes from Jewish life in France at a time when Orientalist painters presented moments of Jewish life in North Africa as an exotic sensation. Like Alphonse Levy (1843–1918), Moyse produced nostalgic renderings of the Hebrew Bible and of the rural Jews from Alsace-Lorraine.
Manifesting his ethnic background in art however, was not of an issue for one of the greatest Impressionists of all,
(1830–1903), although he had studied first with the Danish-Jewish artist David Jacobsen. He met Cézanne and became a founding member of the Impressionists in 1874. Famous for his peasant scenes and landscape paintings, he turned to the representation of the modern city life of Paris after 1888. In 1894, however, Pissarro was deeply distressed about the
Affair and the antisemitic accusations of his colleagues Degas and Renoir. He reconsidered his identity but stated that "for a Hebrew, there is not much of that in me." This attitude was somewhat shared by
(1830–1903), who focused on representing the miserable life of the underclass in a naturalist style, a topic favored by many other Jewish painters in the late 19th century, for whom the subject was not alien, as it reminded them of their own backgrounds.
Pissarro's great Dutch contemporary,
(1824–1911) was also concerned with the life of the poor, and he became internationally famous for his sympathetic renderings of the hard life of Dutch fishermen and peasants in a style which owed much to Rembrandt's somberness, tenderness, and humanity. He only occasionally turned to Jewish themes and personalities, as in A Son of the Ancient Race, but these few paintings became veritable icons in the eye of a Jewish public in quest of authentic Jewish art after the turn of the century. His son Isaac Israels (1865–1934) was a leading Dutch impressionist, known for his scenes from the lives of Paris working girls. Like Israels, the Dutch painter
Jacob Meijer *de Haan
(1852–1895) started from a traditional Jewish background and first painted some Jewish scenes and portraits but later on balked at this heritage and turned to secular painting. He became a close follower of Paul Gauguin in 1889 with a similar interest in painting landscapes and peasant scenes.
At the same time, a new generation of Jewish artists emerged in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, among them the first Jewish sculptors. The Hungarian Jacob Guttmann (1815–1852), who made busts of the Austrian chancellor Metternich and of Pope Pius X, is now completely forgotten, as is his compatriot
(1815–1901), who portrayed Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort. Of sculptors of a later generation, the Austrian (Czech)
Samuel Friedrich *Beer
(1846–1912) is now remembered chiefly because Herzl sat for him and because he designed the medal for the first Zionist Congress at Basle in 1897.
In contrast, the work of
(1853–1921), Tina Blau (1845–1916), and Broncia Koller-Pinell (1863–1934) is still remembered today, because each of them made a substantial contribution to art in Austria. Isidor Kaufmann started as a genre painter and portraitist, but later turned to Jewish subjects and became the painter who documented the great heritage of ḥasidic life in Galicia and Moravia in a realist style. As a woman artist, Tina Blau became one of the leading Austrian impressionists, whereas Bianca Koller-Pinell was a major figure in the Viennese art nouveau movement. Both women showed little concern for their Jewish identity and converted later in life, though Blau painted the Jew's street of Amsterdam.
The secular approach to art was also favored by Italian-Jewish artists like Serafino da
(1826–1890) and Vito d'
(1824–1884). Though ardent supporters of the Risorgimento, which led to the abolition of the Ghetto at last, they showed no interest in making their Jewish background artistically visible. Instead, they pursued secular painting and the latest currents of contemporary art. Serafino da Tivoli was the founder of the "Macchiaioli" school, which reacted against neoclassical formulae and applied paint in summary spots to gain an effect of spontaneity. One of the chief painters of this school was Vito d'Ancona, who executed fresh, lively landscapes and nudes and portraits in rich and luminous colors. Vittorio Matteo
(1859–1933) followed the Macchiaioli school at first, but became an internationally sought-after society portraitist after his marriage and conversion in 1886. Likewise the Swedish impressionist Ernst Josephson (1851–1906) worked also as a portraitist and his fresh, boldly executed portraits of a subject caught at a characteristic moment are among his best achievements.
In Germany, the second generation of Jewish artists like
(1847–1935) and after him Lesser
(1861–1931) witnessed the emerging liberalism and became less preoccupied with manifesting their religious and ethnic status. Instead, dealing with the latest artistic trend and the search for pictorial truth prevailed. Max Liebermann as a socially conscious artist started to depict the harsh life of day laborers under the influence of the French Realists Courbet and Millet, thus setting a counterbalance to cozy Biedermeier genre scenes which dominated the German art market by then. However, when the artist sent his Jesus in the Temple to Munich in 1879, the public display of the painting set off vicious antisemitic criticism against an artist who had dared to show Jesus as a precocious Jewish boy surrounded by honest Jewish-looking rabbis. Irritated by the result, Liebermann refrained from painting biblical subjects and found his inspiration in the friendship with Jozef Israels and in the life of the small towns and villages of Holland. He adapted French impressionism and became himself the leading German impressionist and a most eminent portraitist. In addition, he made a major contribution to the development of the art of etching. As the founder of the Berlin Secession, Liebermann was elected president of the Prussian Academy of the Arts in the Weimar Republic, but during his entire career he had to withstand harsh attacks like those of the art historian Henry Thode in 1905, who chided him for his "un-German" character. It would seem to be no coincidence that Liebermann painted the famous Jew's Street in Amsterdam at that very time. At the end of his life he was confronted with the rise of Nazism and was forced to resign from the Prussian Academy.
Lesser Ury's artistic career resembled somewhat that of Liebermann's. He too started as an impressionist painter of rural life, but after he had settled in Berlin in 1887 he became the first artist to capture the vibrancy and the luster of the emerging modern metropolis in his Berlin cityscapes. At the very same time, he maintained a lifelong interest in the Bible and created many biblical paintings like Jeremiah, exhibited in one of the earliest shows of Jewish artists in Berlin in 1903. Alongside Israels, Lesser Ury was considered to be one of the first modern Jewish painters.
With the 20th century, the general picture changed. Whereas hitherto Jewish artists had been few, now there was a sudden explosion of Jewish talent which left a permanent mark on artistic development. Not only from the teeming ghettos of Eastern Europe, but also from the Balkans and North Africa, from well-to-do homes in Germany, England, and America, a stream of Jewish artists emerged. In most cases their Mecca was Paris where they hoped to take up the latest art fashion. It was in the fruitful surroundings of the Fauves and Cubists that the School of Paris was formed which harbored such eminent artists as Soutine, Modigliani, Pascin, Mane-Katz, and especially Chagall. They played a highly significant role in modern painting and their contribution was so great as to be in some quarters considered dominant. Besides creating avant-garde art, some artists and critics of Jewish origin engaged also in discussing the possibility of establishing authentic Jewish art, but their attempt fell short as most of the members of the Paris School rejected the necessity of such a quest and favored the search for purely individual artistic expression instead. The best example is the Italian-Jewish painter
(1884–1920), who became famous only after his death for his sensual nudes and intimate portraits capturing the mood of loneliness and isolation of the sitter in simple elongated forms and iridescent colors.
However, the sense of loneliness and uprooting in the face of a modern world, where Jewish traditional life was threatened either by dissolution or deep change, could lead also to a new attempt to create an art based on Jewish themes. This was the case of a group of Anglo-Jewish artists like
(1892–1962). Mostly, they were born out of the first generation of East European immigrants centered in Whitechapel in the East End of London and educated at the London-based Slade School of Fine Arts. They started to document their Jewish surroundings, the Yiddish theater as the nucleus of culture or the archetypal Jewish family of immigrants, and tried to evoke tradition as with Jacob Kramer in his painting Day of Atonement of 1919.
In Germany, redefining Jewish art had became a major issue through the impact of
, who had proclaimed the necessity of a Jewish national art at the Fifth International Zionist Congress in 1901. Buber's cultural activities stimulated an entire generation of young German and Central European Jewish artists who became involved in creating the "Jewish Renaissance" which reached its climax in Berlin in the Weimar Republic. It was the first time in European art ever that Jewish artists developed their work first and foremost out of their consciousness of a distinct ethnic and religious background. Leading members were graphic artists like
Moses Ephraim *Lilien
(1888–1940), who leaned first toward art nouveau and later toward expressionism to create a whole new Jewish iconography ranging from Zionist symbols to representations of the world of the shtetl. Lilien's photo of Herzl Overlooking the Rhine became as much an icon as Struck's delicately etched portraits of Polish and Russian Jews in Das Ostjuedische Antlitz. This group was joined by a wide circle of artists, art historians, and critics like
, Rachel Wischnitzer, and
. Among the artists were the expressionist painters
, who were already known for their cityscapes and biblical paintings foreshadowing imminent disaster like Meidner's I and the City of 1912 and Steinhardt's monumental Prophet Jeremiah of 1913. Of the same generation was the expressionist sculptor
(1884–1943), who later created the portrait bust of Albert Einstein, and an entire group of avant-garde Polish and Russian Jewish artists such as
, Issai Kulviansky,
Issachar Ber *Ry-back
, to name but a few. Their art works contributed to Berlin's reputation as an international center for the creation of contemporary art.
At the same time, the ritual objects of the
Art School founded in Jerusalem in 1906 had a major impact on the creation of modern European Judaica. This field had been largely neglected during the Age of Emancipation, and it was only in the later 19th century that manufacturers like Lazarus Posen started with mass-produced Judaica in the so called "antique silver style." In the early 20th century, however, a group of young artists emerged like
(1876–1961), Ludwig Wolpert (1900–1981), Friedrich Adler (1878–1942), and David Gumbel. They were trained as sculptors like
(1877–1960), but in addition to secular art they started to create ritual objects under the influence of art nouveau at first and later under that of the Bauhaus.
Nevertheless German Jewish artists of the 1920s were not solely involved in the quest for an authentic Jewish art. Some of them formulated new aspects of art out of progressive political attitudes. Their left-wing views led them to defy the saturated bourgeois society, and they searched for new ways to express the human condition as marked by the vicissitudes of the Weimar Republic. This was the case with
(1878–1943), a painter, sculptor, and graphic artist who was attracted by the teachings of the Bauhaus during the Weimar Republic but lived predominantly in Paris. He sculpted a new image of man close to abstraction and engaged in painting of the pure form. Artists like John Heartfield (1891–1968) and Lea (1906–1977) and Hans (1901–1958) Grundig became members of the KPD (German Communist Party) and devoted their artistic talents exclusively to the service of the party by creating anti-fascist posters or presentations denouncing the living conditions of the proletariat. Political engagement was considered also a prerequisite of artistic creativity among the "Das Junge Rheinland" group," founded in 1919, where artists like
(1894–1970) and Arthur *Kaufmann (1888–1971) painted portraits and genre scenes denouncing the chaos of postwar life in a tortured and emotional late expressionist style, revealing the influence of the "Neue Sachlichkeit" and of Otto Dix. The Viennese painter Max Oppenheimer (1885–1954), who was influenced by Oskar Kokoschka, created portraits with deep psychological insight while Hanns Ludwig Katz (1892–1940), another late expressionist painter, who came under the influence of Max Beckmann in Frankfurt, followed a similar intention when he painted the portrait of Gustav Landauer in 1919/1920.
After the rise to power of the Nazi Party in 1933, all German Jewish artists were threatened by persecution, and later, during wartime, the entire generation of European Jewish artists born since the late 1880s was dispersed and many of them perished in death camps. The show "Degenerate Art" organized by the Nazi authorities in 1938 served as a prelude to annihilation. There, many of the avant-garde art works of Jews and non-Jews alike were publicly decried as "Jewish-Bolshevik botch" or as marks of insanity. However, artists did not simply give in to terror; they tried to resist by creating art. This was especially the case of
(1898–1944), who brought art to hundreds of children in the Theresienstadt concentration camp from 1942 until she was sent to Auschwitz in 1944.
(1875–1944), and Felix Nussbaum (1904–1944) were among those who were persecuted and went into hiding but continued to work nevertheless. They all perished in the Holocaust, but their masterworks created while living under the most oppressive conditions offer a vivid testimony of humanity withstanding all odds. Felix Nussbaum revealed his feelings of solitude and despair in the face of imminent doom in his many self-portraits in a surrealist style and especially in the Danse Macabre, his last painting before deportation to the Auschwitz extermination camp.
While artists all over the world were deeply affected by the Holocaust, the experience of torture and humiliation, of persecution and exile, became a dominant subject for those who had survived. Yet, for many of the artists it was not only about documenting the actual horrors of the death camps but also of visualizing the abyss of human cruelty. Survivors like the Viennese artists Arik Brauer (1929– ) and Fritz Hundertwasser (1928–2000) chose to depict scenes of Fantastic Realism in order to convey the inconceivable dimensions of the catastrophe. Other artists who survived in exile, like
, focused on presenting those who were barred from normal life or created monstrous apocalyptic scenes in order to express suffering.
Jankel Adler (1895–1949) was among those artists who could emigrate to England like
(1911– ) but had a hard time supporting themselves as painters. They brought with them the figurative expressionist heritage from the Continent and continued to work in that style. A new style of painting, based as much on the aesthetic experience of expressionism as on abstract painting, emerged in the next generation of Anglo-Jewish artists with a refugee background. Today, the works of artists like
(1926– ), and
(1931– ) are generally acknowledged as having a major impact on contemporary world art, while their ethnic and religious background is rarely stressed. Fascinated by the sheer physicality of the world, these London-based artists work as figurative painters and graphic artists who convey the vibrancy of life, especially the spirituality of human beings out of the materiality of the body in a sensuous, agitated style of brushwork. For them the visual reality offers the indispensable backdrop for exploring the metaphysical quality of life. They are joined in their efforts by the American born
(1932– ) who focuses on presenting the quest for a modern Jewish identity after the Holocaust in his paintings.
[Annette Weber (2nd ed.)]
Jewish artists emerged in Eastern Europe, as well as in Western Europe, as a result of modernization and integration of a part of Jewry into European cultural and social life. It appears only natural, therefore, that the fist Jewish figures to appear on the artistic arena of Eastern Europe in the 1840s–1850s came from privileged circles of the
Jewish financial elite that was more prone, in comparison to other sectors of the Jewish community, to acculturation and even assimilation. The most prominent artists of this period (within the borders of the Austrian and the Russian Empire) are Barbu Iscovescu (Itskovich, 1816–1854) and Constantine Daniel Rosenthal (1820–1851) in Romania; Alexander Lesser (1814–1884) and Maximilian Fajans (1827–1890) in Poland.
Those artists' Weltanschauung was molded in the intellectual atmosphere of societies and salons of Jewish Reformist bourgeoisie and acculturated intelligentsia. An important element of the Weltanschauung was a firm belief that Jews were an integral part of the nations in whose midst they existed and whose historic destiny they thus shared. This belief inspired many works created by Jewish artists of the first generation, a striking example of which is Lesser's The Funeral of Five Victims of the Warsaw Manifestation of 1861 (1866). The picture portrays the solemn ceremony of burying Polish patriots who were killed in the repression of the Russian imperial regime. Among the participants led by the Catholic archbishop of the Polish capital, Lesser included representatives of all the sectors and ethnic groups of the Warsaw population of the time, including an Orthodox rabbi and a reformist rabbi. The picture was to emphasize the unity of the Polish nation, composed of diverse ethnic groups including the Jews.
Jewish artists, as well as sections of Jewry they belonged to, identified themselves with the rest of the nation, and this feeling of unity brought about sympathy with the nationalist movements of their countries. Moreover, some Jewish artists were active participants in those movements, such as Iscovescu and Rosenthal, whose role in the 1848–49 revolution in Valakhia and Moldavia was quite prominent. Their art, which is believed to have established the foundations of the Romanian national school of painting, was a visual manifestation of the patriotic ideals of the Romanian nation then being in the process of formation (such as the painting by Rosenthal eloquently named Romania Casting Off Her Handcuffs in the Liberty Camp, 1849).
However, despite the fact that some Jewish artists of the first half of the 19th century had gained recognition, their works did not have a pronounced impact on the cultural transformation of East European Jewry. Being few in number and striving to merge into the national cultures of their countries, these artists remained at the periphery of contemporary Jewish society together with the thin social layer of Jewish intelligentsia whose ideas they expressed.
Owing to a number of political and cultural factors characterizing the evolution of East European Jewry (among them, complete or partial lack of emancipation, perpetuating the dominant role of the traditional culture, numerous Jews habitually living in mono-ethnic settlements, etc.), the process of modernization took specific forms and unfolded more slowly than in the countries of Western Europe. This is one of the reasons why the Jewish artistic presence in Eastern Europe did not become noticeable before the first decades of the second half of the 19th century, i.e., later than in the West.
In the specific historical conditions of Eastern Europe of that period, the new phenomenon of a professional Jewish artist needed certain legitimizing. Jewish traditionalists condemned the artistic trade, regarding it as breaking with the fundamental commandments of Judaism. The non-Jewish public mind shared a deeply rooted belief that Jews were not capable of creating original plastic art. This negative stereotype was also shared by some members of the Jewish intelligentsia. To overcome these prejudices, Jewish publicists came forth with the genre of art criticism and the esthetic essay. In the early 1880s, the pioneers in this genre were
and Mordechai Zvi Mane (1859–1886), the latter being one of the first Jewish artists and a poet writing in Hebrew.
Despite the impeding factors and a certain "delay," in the early 1870s the Jewish presence in art was established by two outstanding names, those of
, a sculptor living in Russia, and
, a Polish painter, whose legacies in the art of their countries in particular and of Europe in general have been quite prominent. Some of their works, influenced by the
, manifest a pioneering visual interpretation of images of early Christianity as part of the Jewish history, among them Antokolsky's Ecce Homo (1874) and Gottlieb's Christ Preaching at Capernaum (1878–79), where Jesus is portrayed, for the first time in the history of art, as a traditional Semitic Jew. Pioneering this interpretation, the artists tried to analyze anew the pattern of relationship between modern European civilization and Judaism and to demonstrate the universal contribution of Jews to the evolution of this civilization. At the same time, Antokolsky and Gottlieb managed to significantly expand the frames of "the Jewish theme" (depicting scenes of Jewish life and history), both in content and expression, having introduced historical and psychological elements and the cogency of realism. In fact, they turned these themes into a means of introspection revolving around the existential experience and national self-identity of a modern Jewish personality.
In Russia, Vladimir Stasov (1824–1906), a prominent art critic and one of the ideologists of liberal art, enthusiastically welcomed the advent of Jewish artists. Stasov was the first to encourage Antokolsky and later became his friend and patron; he authored a number of articles in which he came forward as an ardent apologist of Jewish creative artistic potential. Being a passionate advocate of the idea of creating a Russian national artistic school, Stasov viewed its emergence as a result of the common creative effort made by all the different peoples inhabiting the Russian empire, Jews in particular. He regarded national ("folk") art as a "truthful" portrayal of history and daily popular life, and urged Jewish artists to turn to Jewish national topics. This appeal elicited a response among several Jewish artists in Russia and Poland, who, being younger contemporaries of Antokolsky and Gottlieb, further developed their art in own manner and became active participants of the artistic life of the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. For a number of painters and sculptors, among them Isaac Asknasii, Moisei Maimon, Pinkhas Geller, Yehuda Pan, Yakov Kruger,
, and Yosif Gabovich (1862–1939) in Russia, and
, Mauricy *Trebacz, Artur *Markowicz,
in Poland, "the Jewish theme" became the focus of their creative work, notwithstanding all the differences in the artistic manner. They went into depth expressing the social meaning of Jewishness, imbued it with actual meaning, and made it serve as a tool of reflection and the search for solutions to national problems. Unlike those non-Jewish artists who chose to turn to "the Jewish theme," Jewish artists refrained from criticizing the Jewish people, seeing their mission rather in its apologia. At the same time, while portraying Jewish life in historic or genre paintings, the artists strove to embody novel esthetic and ethic national ideals expressed in the images they created.
Other artists were inspired by different goals while treating "the Jewish topic," such as
, who both were of East European origin and lived in Austro-Hungary. Their works reflected nostalgia for the traditional "authentic" Jewish world lost by modernized Jewry. This tendency was especially pronounced in Kaufmann's works portraying an idealized image of the Galician Ḥasidism.
However, quite a few Jewish artists dedicated but a small fraction of their work to Jewish themes, or even chose to distance themselves completely from them, concentrating entirely on purely artistic goals. By the end of the 19th century, though, both groups of Jewish artists in Eastern Europe had gained celebrity and held prominent positions in the artistic life of their countries. In Russia, Asknasii and Maimon, as well as sculptor
were among the first Jews to become members of the Academy of Arts; Yuli Bershadsky (1869–1956) and Solomon Kishinevsky (1862–1942, died in the Odessa ghetto) were among the leaders of the Association of South Russian Artists in Odessa; Boris Anisfeld and
were notable as leading pioneering artists who brought about dramatic innovation into the Russian stage design;
in Russia and Abraham Neumann in Poland were recognized as prominent masters of landscape painting.
At the same time, the ideologists of the Jewish national movement (mostly of East European origin, such as
) had "rehabilitated" art as an element within the set of national values and come to regarding it as an indispensable attribute of a "historical" nation. They envisioned the climax of Jewish national revival in the formation of the historical Jewish nation. This vision was the background against which the Jewish artistic milieu was formed in various centers of Eastern Europe, bringing together not only the artists but all Jewish intellectuals who shared the national ideas. It is within this milieu that an image of a Jewish artist was molded as someone who adhered to the national idea and by way of his creative work promoted the evolution of the national identification of his people.
The bond between the Jewish national ideology and art was strikingly reflected in the works of several artists connected to the Zionist movement, among them Wilhelm Wachtel from Galicia,
from Poland, and especially
Ephraim Moses *Lilien
, a graphic artist from Austro-Hungary. The works of the latter, according to his contemporaries, provided visual means for "bridging" gaps in Zionist theory. Inspired by Zionist ideas and the mission of creating the national art, some of these artists moved to Ereẓ Israel, more precisely to Jerusalem, where in 1906 sculptor Boris *Shatz established "Betzalel," the Jewish school of arts.
The rise of the Jewish national movement, advancement of literature in both Yiddish and Hebrew, penetrated by modernist attitudes, the idea of creating "the New Jewish Culture," including "the New Jewish Art" as part of it – all these factors had an impact on evolution of the Weltanschauung of the new generation of Jewish artists. Being of East European origin, these artists emerged prior to World War I. For many of them, it was Paris that became the center of attraction, where they became acquainted with avant-garde art. Artists from Eastern Europe were a sizable and active part of the Parisian international artistic bohemia. In 1912, several young East European artists in La Rouche established the first Jewish artistic group "Makhmadim" ("The Precious Ones"), under the leadership of Leo Koenig (1889–1970), who later became a prominent art critic writing in Yiddish, Isaac Lichtenstein and Joseph Chaikov.
From the early 1910s, among the artists residing in Paris were
, Leon Indenbaum (1892–1981),
, Pinchas Krémègne (1890–1981), originally from Russia;
, Marek *Szwarz, Moïse
from Poland; Béla Czobel (1883–1976) from Hungary; and
from Bulgaria, together with many other artists who had come from Eastern Europe. In this circle were such artists as
, and Robert
, who had come from Russia and already gained celebrity, being regarded by art critics as the most prominent figures of "the New Jewish Art."
[Hillel Kazovsky (2nd ed.)]
Art in modern Ereẓ Israel can be dated from the first Zionist immigration to Palestine. Its evolution followed to a certain extent the pattern of the successive waves of immigration. One of the central questions concerning art in Ereẓ Israel, and later Israeli art, concerns identity, the question of assigning it precise defining characteristics that will distinguish it from the Jewish art of the Diaspora. The art in Ereẓ Israel of the first decades of the 20th century might be considered in terms of the continuity of the artistic and cultural traditions that the artists, who were all immigrants, had brought over with them. However, they also participated in the Zionist project of creating a new identity for an old nation creating itself anew. The creative awareness of artists of later generations fluctuated between, on the one hand, the desire to create a native art based on an indigenous independent language, an organic part of the land, and its physical and social conditions; and, on the other, the attraction to artistic developments overseas, which, particularly until the 1960s, were associated with Paris.
The creation of new symbols of identity for the Jewish people in its ancient homeland was, indeed, at the heart of
life project. In 1906, Schatz (1867–1932) immigrated to Ereẓ Israel from Bulgaria. He was a painter and sculptor and had been head of the Royal Academy of Art in Sofia. In the year of his arrival he realized his dream of founding a school of arts and crafts in Jerusalem. He called it the
School after the biblical architect of the Tabernacle. The founding of an art institute in Jerusalem in 1906 was an adventurous undertaking. The Jewish population of the Yishuv was small and the Orthodox were certain to protest vigorously against a school which might violate the biblical prohibition against the making of graven images. Nevertheless, Bezalel received the full backing of the Zionist Organization. The foundation of the school must be considered the beginning of genuine artistic activity. Until then the only art forms produced locally were by Arabs and the small Jewish communities of Jerusalem, Safed, and Tiberias. They consisted of arts and crafts and pictorial representations for devotional purposes. Schatz wanted to establish a cultural-artistic center that would advance the utopian vision of a Jewish home-land. He planned his school to train painters, sculptors, and craftsmen on two levels, which he was careful to define as the "technical level" and the "national level." The teachers he hired included local artisans (goldsmiths and Yemenite weavers) as well as Jewish artists who were already well established in Europe, such as
Ephraim Moses *Lilien
(1874–1925), Zeev Raban (1890–1970), and
(1888–1940). They all came from Eastern Europe and their artistic training had tended to lead them away from Judaism, but they had come to know both the horror of the pogroms and the nationalist revival in Europe. They now felt the need to use their academic knowledge to relate to the past as represented by the Bible and to the future as represented by the advent of Zionism. The Wandering Jew by Hirshenberg, the biblical pastels of Pann, and the reliefs of biblical figures and Zionist personalities by Schatz represented this outlook. In Lilien's illustrations and etchings, Yemenite Jews, Bedouins and Arabs in their traditional dresses served as models for images of biblical figures. The "Bezalel Style" was consequently quite eclectic, combining Oriental arabesques and Jugendstil flowing lines and decorative flatness. The themes combined biblical motifs, often in a Zionist perspective, and landscapes done in an idealist-utopian and Orientalist spirit. The products included jewelry, religious artifacts, ceramic tiles, postcards, illustrated books, and posters. Bezalel under the directorship of Schatz closed down in 1928 because of economic problems and because its generally conservative orientation seemed inimical to the modernist outlook. It reopened as the "New Bezalel" in the 1930s under the guidance of immigrant Jewish artists from Germany who oriented it toward the spirit of the Bauhaus School.
Early criticism of Bezalel is already in evident in the first important exhibition in Ereẓ Israel, organized in 1923 by the younger generation of Palestine artists. It was held in the so-called Tower of David in Jerusalem and included the work of
(1892–1979), all of whom had been pupils at the Bezalel. The work of newcomers such as
(1891–1985) was also shown. These young people had realized how anachronistic the style and ideas of their teachers had been and it was this group, who were mainly landscape artists, that formed the nucleus out of which Israeli art developed. With the new waves of immigration of 1919–25, Tel Aviv, a modern new city, became a lively cultural alternative to Jerusalem, drawing writers, artists, musicians, and theater people who felt the need to create a new local Hebrew culture. The three exhibitions of "Modern Artists" at the Ohel Theater during 1926–28 exhibited the modernist orientation of the young artists such as Nachum Gutman, Arieh Lubin (1897–1980),
(1902–1975), Israel Paldi, Reuven Rubin,
(1909–1991), Yossef Zaritzky, and others.
The artistic alternatives these artists proposed were defined by a desire to become acculturated in the new Oriental surrounding and adopt the figure of the Arab as a model for the new "Hebrew." They went out to the landscapes in order to bring together the biblical past and the modern pioneers, the local Arabs, and the rooted Oriental Jews. Stylistically, they were guided by the need to create a national art, and, at the same time, to develop universal means of expression which would qualify them as modern artists. The conflict persisted throughout the 1920s and 1930s, even when definition of its components – national art, universalism – underwent slight alteration. Thus, in the 1920s, nationalism was equated with the ideals of pioneering and national renewal. The anti-Diaspora ideal and the demand for an original Hebrew culture found expression in stylistic primitivism (with affinity to the art of the Near and Far East) and exotic-naïve predilections which were realized in flattening and use of color planes with strong contours (corresponding, to some extent, to the expressionistic tendencies in European art which rejected the art of the museum and sought the roots of art in its primitive sources). At the same time, these artists showed a desire to belong to a modern artistic context as evinced by the borrowing of the trappings of modernism as represented by cubist and constructivist trends. These included simplification, even some distortion, and, to a certain degree, geometric construction of form, while preserving the realistic character of the work. Such artists as Tagger,
(1899–1981), and Mokady found the model in the work of André Derain, whose moderate modernism fitted the needs of a young art lacking in tradition.
In the late 1920s artists from Ereẓ Israel began flocking to Paris; this was accompanied by a tendency to abandon the former modernistic manifestations and folk-loristic character and by an intensified desire to root art in
an established artistic tradition, all the more so since France in those years was marked by the trend of reverting to traditional artistic values. Paris offered the Ereẓ Israel artists a wide range of choices. There was the French landscape tradition of the 19th century (Corot, Courbet) and various impressionist and post-impressionist trends (Cézanne, the "intimist" artists). The Jewish School of Paris artists (Soutine, Mintchine, Kremegne, Menkès) offered an expressionism based on a dark palette with the paint laid thickly as an element conveying atmosphere and feeling. Artists such as
(Apteker; 1902–1953), Mokady, Frenkel, and Moshe Castel were shaped by the extreme expressionist manifestations, as represented by Soutine. Others, such as Shemi, Haim Gliksberg (1904–1970),
(1908–1989), Eliahu Sigad (Sigard; 1909–1975), exhibit a more moderate expressionism together with post-impressionist influences.
From 1933, artists and architects who had fled the Nazis constituted an important element of the art scene in Palestine. Some of them were associated with German avant-garde expressionist groups; others studied at the Bauhaus under Itten, Kandinsky, Klee, and the architect Gropius.
(1897–1975) came in this wave of immigration. With the exception of Sebba, they all settled in Jerusalem. They created a "Jerusalem School" which was dominated by certain aspects of German expressionism. These artists were preceded by two Viennese painters,
(1890–1954). By the mid-1930s, some of the painters of the first generation of Bezalel graduates had begun to lose their originality and vitality. The coming of new artists, in particular Ardon and Sebba, revived the artistic scene. Mordecai Ardon, a graduate of the Weimar Bauhaus, achieved this through his efficient teaching at the Bezalel School. Sebba aimed at applying a European archaistic-primitivist tendency to a "localism" associated with the figures of shepherds and exerted his influence through stage designs and the decoration of public buildings.
World War II brought about a feeling of isolation from the outside world for the younger artists of the period, but also an increasing sense of a local identity that was antithetical to the image of the Jew of the Diaspora. This trend was exemplified by a group of writers and poets –
– who became known as the "Canaanites." They called for a separation of the Hebrew identity from Judaism and for its re-attachment to the ancient land of Canaan and its culture. Artists such as Yitshak
(1905–1967) adopted a primitivist-Oriental imagery and borrowed the myths of the Ancient East. Danziger's sculpture Nimrod, with its archaism, nudity, and non-Jewish connotations, became a manifesto and a model to young artists such as
(1922–2003), Shoshana Heiman (1923– ), and others. In the late 1950s, Danziger abandoned the "Canaanite" orientation and turned to abstract sculpture inspired by the Israeli landscape.
Alongside the "Canaanites," there was another group of artists whose orientation was geared to the expression of social issues. Among the "social realists" were kibbutz artists such as Yohanan Simon (1905–1976) and Shraga Weil (1918– ), who endowed daily life in the kibbutz with a religious-mystical romantic mood. There were "engaged" artists, with pronounced socialist leanings, such as
(1935–1990), Naftali Bezem (1924– ), Shimeon Tzabar (1926– ), Moshe Gat (1935– ), and others. In the 1950s, in the midst of the great waves of immigration to Israel, Ruth Schloss (1922– ) Gerson Knispel (1932– ), Bezem and Weil evoked in their works the hardships of the temporary homes for the immigrants in the ma'barot.
By 1945, Israel painters had become aware that the two Paris schools had ceased to exist. The Jewish painters had almost all disappeared. A younger generation of abstract painters had succeeded the post-cubist fauvist schools, and these painters now began to exercise a considerable influence on Israeli artists, including several veterans among them. The work of Aharon Giladi (1907–1993),
(1901–1968), Litvinovsky, Paldi, and Frenkel evolved toward a more "modern" style, which in some cases resembled that of Rouault or Picasso, rather than that of the two Paris schools. The influence of Parisian abstraction could be seen in the work of Castel and Mokady. The most important event of this period was the creation of the New Horizons Group in 1947/48. The leaders were Zaritsky and
(1895–1984), a painter of Romanian origin who had gained renown as a member of the dada movement in Zurich, and who arrived in Palestine in 1941. Around them were grouped Yeḥezkiel
(1906–1993) and Avigdor Stematsky. They all made a decisive contribution to the development of what became known as "lyrical abstraction," combining free, abstract style with a predilection for the expression of the light and color palate characterizing the local experience. Zaritsky followed his own path with some debt to Braque and French "intimisme"; Streichman and Stematsky were influenced by Picasso as well as by the lyrical trend in the School of Paris. They were joined by Avraham Naton (1906–1959), Kahana, and Yeḥiel Krize (1909–1968) who were still working on figurative though somewhat simplified themes; Jacob Wexler (1912–1995), Avshalom Okashi (1916–1980), Moshe Castel,
(1908–1974), and the sculptors Yitshak Danziger, Yeḥiel Shemi, and
(1903–1992). A little later the two leaders split over the choice of entries for Israel's first participation in the Venice Biennale. The reactions were so violent that Marcel Janco left the New Horizons Group after its first exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum in 1949. Zaritsky inherited the leadership. Group exhibitions were held until 1963. Although certain members returned later to figurative work (Kahana), or geometric abstraction (Naton), the formation of
the group marked the end of the expressionist phase in Israel art and opened the way to new ideas.
Lyrical abstraction dominated Israeli art until 1955. Streichman and Stematsky, both teachers at the Avni Institute in Tel Aviv, played an important role in the formation of a second generation of artists that took abstraction to new directions, at times more extreme than those of their teachers. Of this group should be singled out
(1918–2005), whose work was highly abstract, sensual, lively, and colorful, and
(1926–2003), a Holocaust survivor whose paintings might be seen as representing both formal abstract qualities and thematic connotations associated with his personal experiences. The way was already clear, however, for new experimenters. The most important of these was Arie Aroch, whose work may be associated with the spirit of the poetic revolution of the 1950s, embodied by
, Meir Wieseltier, and
. Aroch proposed an alternative to lyrical abstraction by developing a calligraphy that was based on children's drawings, developing uncommon techniques (rubbing, erasing, scratching) and utilizing motifs and forms taken out of "non-artistic" sources (such as street signs), Jewish manuscripts, and other readymade forms. Aviva *Uri (1927–1989) chose to work with pencil, charcoal, and oil sticks and to develop an expressive line that reflected anxieties and emotional tensions. The third artist to work away from lyrical abstraction was
(1933– ), who in the early 1960s began making rather violent assemblages that combined readymade objects, expressionist brushwork, texts sprayed through matrices, art historical citations. These works, with their controversial political-social stand, echoed the new Pop Art and new Realism then current abroad. This new spirit, and the direct influence of Aroch and Uri, were seen in the work of several young painters, notably
(1937– ), who formed the "Group of Ten." Lavie's work, in its connotation of a municipal billboard, with its torn posters and dynamic and haphazard piling up of images, evoked the essence of the spirit of Tel Aviv. An exhibition entitled "The Want of Matter – A Quality in Israeli Art," curated by Sara Breitberg-Semel at the Tel Aviv Museum in 1986, provided a major summing up of all these trends of the 1960s.
The "Group of Ten" reflected the beginning of the trend of the "Americanization" of Israeli art that was augmented by the greater exposure to American culture brought about by volunteers who flocked to Israel following the Six-Day War and by young Jewish-American artists such as Joshua *Neustein (1940– ), who immigrated to Israel in 1964. The art of the 1970s mirrors American trends such as conceptual art, body art, performance, environmental art ("Earth Art"), and minimalist art. The years 1967–83, encompassing three wars, also brought about an eclipse of the former spirit of national identity, with the private identity replacing the collective dream. Michal Na'aman (1951– ) searched the limits of language in their application to national or sexual identity; the works of Michael Druks (1940– ), Motti Mizrahi (1946– ), Yocheved Weinfeld (1947– ), David Ginton (1947– ), Gideon Gechtman (1942– ), Moshe Gershuni (1936– ), and Haim Maor (1951– ) examine the human body and the limits of pain and suffering, at times in relation to war. Artists such as Avital
(1940– ), Pinchas Cohen-Gan (1942– ), Dov Or-Ner (1927– ), Dganit Berest (1949– ), Menashe Kadishman (1932– ), Dov Heller (1937– ),
(1930– ), and others, dealt with the question of borders, maps, environment and ecology. Alongside the trends that emphasized themes and contents, there was a more abstract trend, which engaged in examining minimalist form. This trend was amply reflected in the works of Yehiel Shemi,
(1920–2004), Nahum Tevet (1946– ),
(1936– ), Rita Alima (1932– ), and Ori *Reisman (1924–1991). It should be recalled that there were artists, such as Naftali Bezem (1924– ) and Moshe Tamir (1924–2004), who remained figurative painters. A return to themes which were figurative and evocative of the Holocaust and to traditional Jewish subjects, first noticeable in the work of Ardon himself, is illustrated in various ways by
(1920– ), Shmuel Boneh (1930–1999), and Shraga Weil.
Critical post-modernist attitudes, which became quite dominant in Israeli art in the 1980s, express a growing tendency to give voice to the "Other" – artists raised in immigrant families, homosexuals and lesbians, or artists belonging to minority groups. The "Israeli experience," based on a collective, monolithic memory, had fallen apart. The paintings of
(1945– ), David Reeb (1952– ), Tsivi Geva (1951– ), and Avishai Eyal (1945– ), or the photographs of Micha Kirshner (1947– ), Michal Heyman (1954– ), Shuka Glotman (1953– ), and Adi Ness (1966– ) are examples of a new critical and deconstructive examination of the Israeli experience, of local history and its visual representations, and of the manipulations of the collective-political memory. Various aspects of the post-modern condition gained in prominence in the course of the last two decades. These include an erasure of the borders separating illusion from reality (art based on the virtual worlds created in the cinema, for instance, as reflected in the paintings of Anat Ben Shaul; the sense of apocalyptic threat expressed in the works of Dorit Yacoby and Moshe Gershuni). The threat of loss of the family home or the national one is given form by the prominence of the "house" motif in the sculptures of Micha Ulman, Philip Renzer (1956– ), Gideon Gechtman, and Buky Schwarz (1932– ). For more than a decade now, there has been a growing emphasis on the Holocaust as one of the major constituents in defining the Israeli identity, especially on the part of artists such as Yocheved Weinfeld, Simcha Shirman (1947– ), Haim Maor, and Uri Katzenshtein (1951– ), who are second-generation survivors.
The particular problems of identity and the tensions surrounding the broad concept of the "Israeli experience" largely
account for the development in the Israel of recent years of an art that is fully sensitive and attentive to what is happening both in the public sphere and in the private domain, and that has gained a prominent position in the global art scene, as evinced by the interest shown in exhibitions of Israeli art in various venues abroad.
[Haim Finkelstein and Haim Maor (2nd ed.)]
The term Jewish American art, like the more generalized Jewish art, is fraught with complications and variously understood. Critics debate whether Jewish American art need only be art made by a Jewish American, independent of content, or if both the artist's and the artwork's identity must be Jewish. Indeed, working in myriad styles and adopting both figuration and abstraction, some artists address Jewishness and the more specific Jewish American experience, while others make art indistinguishable in subject from their gentile counterparts. If a Jewish American artist should be defined sociologically or by theme remains an open question, and thus in this essay Jewish American artists are accepted by either criteria, leaving the matter for the reader to decide.
While Jews arrived in America as early as 1654, they did not enter the visual arts in a meaningful way until the 19th century. The freedoms accorded Jews enabled them to participate in the plastic arts, but the loosening of religious strictures as well as uneasiness about the respectability of an art career disappeared slowly. Hesitancy was often the result of the Second Commandment, the prohibition against graven images. Myer
was an 18th-century silversmith who made both lay and religious objects for colonial merchants. He created rimmonim for several synagogues, including New York's Congregation Shearith Israel and the Yeshuat Israel Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island. In the 19th century, a handful of Jews painted portraits. Wealthy patrons commissioned the brothers Joshua and John Canter (or Canterson) to record their visages. Theodore Sidney
, Frederick E. Cohen, and Jacob Hart Lazarus are other 19th century Jewish portraitists of note.
is the best-known painter from this period. In addition to making portraits of members of the Jewish community, he did allegorical portraits, including one of Abraham Lincoln (1865). Carvalho created a few biblical paintings and landscapes as well, but his fame rests on his work as a daguerreotypist for John C. Frémont's 1853 exploratory expedition through Kansas, Utah, and Colorado.
was the official illustrator for the United States Military Commission during the Civil War. Later, Rosenthal painted Jesus at Prayer for a Protestant church in Baltimore, presenting Jesus with phylacteries on his forehead and right arm. The altarpiece was promptly rejected.
began his career as an artist correspondent for Harper's Weekly during the Civil War. Like many non-Jewish artists, Mosler went to Europe for artistic training. He soon became a painter of genre scenes, frequently picturing peasant life in Brittany, France. His canvas The Wedding Feast, which was exhibited at the Paris Salon, records Breton marriage customs (c. 1892).
The eminent sculptor Moses
made numerous portrait heads, including a bronze bust of Isaac Mayer Wise in 1899. The B'nai B'rith commissioned Ezekiel's large marble group Religious Liberty for the Centennial Exhibition of 1876, and in 1888 he designed the seal for the recently established Jewish Publication Society of America. Ephraim Keyser created commemorative sculptures, for instance President Chester Arthur's tomb at the Rural Cemetery in Albany, New York. Katherine M. Cohen studied with the famous sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and made portrait busts. These early painters and sculptors worked independently and were not readily known to each other. They created in relatively divergent styles along the same trends as the larger American community. It was not until the 20th century that Jewish American artists began interacting and taking art classes together.
Among the large 1880 to 1920 influx of immigrants to the United States were two million Jews. Mostly from poor communities in Eastern Europe, these immigrants were eager to assimilate. The Educational Alliance, a settlement house on the Lower East Side of New York City where many immigrants went to learn American manners and customs, offered art classes starting in 1895. Art classes were discontinued in 1905, resuming in 1917. From the school's reopening until 1955, Russian immigrant Abbo Ostrowsky served as director of the institution. Many well-known artists studied at the Alliance, including the sculptors
, and the painters Philip Evergood,
. The Alliance sponsored art exhibitions as did other Jewishly identified venues in New York. In 1912 the Ethical Culture Society's Madison House Settlement arranged a show of Jewish Russian immigrant artists, such as Samuel Halpert, in which Gentile artists also participated. The People's Art Guild held over 60 exhibitions from 1915 to 1918. In May 1917, 300 works by 89 artists were exhibited at the Forverts Building (the Yiddish daily newspaper the Forward), of which over half were Jewish. Well-known philanthropists Stephen Wise, Judah Magnes, and Jacob Schiff helped sponsor the exhibition. From 1925 to 1927 the Jewish Art Center, directed by Jennings Tofel and Benjamin *Kopman, held exhibitions focusing on Yiddish culture.
In the early decades of the 20th century some artists, such as
, William Meyerowitz, and
, began their nascent careers by picturing imagery of the Lower East Side. The gentile observer Hutchins Hapgood described East Side imagery in his 1902 text, "The Spirit of the Ghetto" as typically Jewish. Characterizing such work as "Ghetto art," Hapgood named Epstein, Bernard Gussow, and Nathaniel Loewenberg as exemplars of the mode. To illustrate Hapgood's evocation of the cultural and religious nature of the Jewish people, Epstein made 52 drawings and a cover design
for the book. Epstein later became an expatriate, settling in London and gaining fame as a sculptor.
championed modernism in the 1910s. While most of the artists that Stieglitz supported were not Jewish, the avant-garde painter and sculptor
enjoyed his patronage. An underlying tone of antisemitism, or at least an intense nativism, pervaded some discussions of modernism at this time. The conservative critic Royal Cortissoz described modernism as "Ellis Island art," while others termed it the art of aliens. Indeed, modernism was frequently associated with Jews, a position later adopted by Hitler.
Many artists addressed political, social, and economic issues, especially during the Great Depression. It has been argued that traditions of social justice impel Jewish artists to create imagery of the underdog. Although secular in theme, these works – influenced by the Jewish experience – would be recognized as Jewish American art even by critics who define the term in its strictest sense. Working as Social Realists in the 1930s, the
brothers (Raphael, Moses, and Isaac) observed the mundane details of life, like waiting in an unemployment line, with gentleness and compassion.
were more overtly politically committed; Shahn made over 20 images decrying the ethnically biased trial and execution of Italian American anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti.
expressed his political sympathies as a cartoonist for the left-wing publications New Masses and the Yiddish daily Morning Freiheit. Some artists' work appeared in the Yiddish journal Schriftn and in The Menorah Journal, a periodical devoted to Jewish culture that also attempted at various times to define Jewish art.
, who worked as a Precisionist painter of city scenes and at times as a Social Realist, was also an art critic for The Menorah Journal. In a 1924 article on Jewish artists who recently exhibited in New York, Lozowick mentions
, William Gropper, and
, among others. Although few of the names devoted their art to Jewish themes (at least at that time), Lozowick's identification of the artists as Jewish indicates that he, like many critics, understood the term Jewish artist as connoting the ethnic identification of the artist rather than the artist's subject matter. A year later Peter Krasnow explicitly defined Jewish art in The Menorah Journal as any art produced by a Jew regardless of subject. In this early period of Jewish integration into America, most artists tried to avoid this kind of discourse, fearing that such categorization would pigeonhole their work as Other or parochial. There was, however, ambivalence on the part of many artists. To be sure, even if artists shied away from the classification "Jewish artist," several still displayed their work at the aforementioned Jewish Art Center and the Educational Alliance, among other Jewish locales. The art exhibitions of the Yiddisher Kultur Farband (YKUF), a Communist organization dedicated to fighting fascism, were also quite popular. Established in September 1937 by the World Alliance for Yiddish Culture, YKUF's first art exhibition was held in 1938.
, and Louis Ribak were among 102 artists who showed work on both Jewish and non-Jewish material.
In 1936, nine Jewish artists formed a group they dubbed "The Ten" (the tenth spot was reserved for a guest artist).
, Louis Harris, Jack Kufeld, Marcus Rothkowitz (
, Joseph Solman, and Nahum Tschacbasov exhibited together for four years. That the artists shared a Jewish background is typically understood as a coincidence. No common style or theme pervades the group's work, but most members were committed to modernist developments.
In the 1940s
worked as a Social Realist, although he painted more satirically and expressionistically than did the practitioners of the mode in the thirties. Beginning in 1941, Levine painted and made prints of biblical figures and stories in addition to his politically motivated art. After his first biblical painting, Planning Solomon's Temple, Levine rendered hundreds more images inspired by the Bible's narrative. Often employing Hebrew labels to identify figures, Levine's biblical works, he explained, attempt to augment Jewish pictorial expression, which he felt was hampered by the Second Commandment. The Boston-born Levine began a lifelong friendship with
when the pair started studying art together at a Jewish Community Center in their early teens. Bloom also retained the human figure in an increasingly abstract art world, painting secular and religious matter in brilliant colors.
A number of the leading Abstract Expressionists were Jewish. Adolph Gottlieb,
, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, and Mark Rothko are among several artists who eschewed representation in the late 1940s and 1950s. The style(s) in which the artists worked are difficult to generalize, but they typically painted on large canvases and were interested in spontaneous expression. Although abstract, Newman's painting has been understood as shaped by his Jewish sensibilities, in part because of titles like Covenant and The Name, and also because, it has been argued, his knowledge of Kabbalah influenced his "zip paintings," which can be read as symbolic of God and Creation. Some second-generation Abstract Expressionists were also Jewish.
stained unprimed canvases with thinned color that seemed to float on and through the canvas. Louis named a series of his paintings with letters from the Hebrew alphabet.
, two of the main art critics who promulgated abstraction, were Jewish.
Although better known for his criticism of contemporary art, Rosenberg also wrote one of the canonical articles on Jewish art. Published in Commentary in July 1966, Rosenberg's sarcastic and provocative essay "Is There a Jewish Art?" continues to serve as a springboard for scholarly discussions of Jewish art in America and abroad. Influenced in part by the formalist
concerns of Abstract Expressionism, Rosenberg argued that an authentic Jewish art must be defined stylistically.
Artists who worked as Social Realists during the 1930s turned their sensibilities toward the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Raphael Soyer made a lithograph titled Amos on Racial Equality (1960s), which quotes Amos in Hebrew and English and depicts a white woman carrying a black infant. Ben Shahn's lithograph Thou Shalt Not Stand Idly By (1965) portrays an oversized interracial handshake. The title comes from Leviticus 19:16 and is printed in Hebrew and in English at the top of the image. Artists of the next generation also addressed social issues. After the fact,
comments on the integration of blacks into professional baseball with his painting Amerika (Baseball) (1983–84). Jewish-black relations have become strained since the civil rights movement, a situation Art
tackled with his cover design of a black woman kissing a ḥasidic man for the February 1993 issue of the New Yorker.
Two Jewish artists initiated the Feminist Art Movement. At the height of the Women's Liberation Movement,
and Miriam Schapiro jointly founded the Feminist Art Program at the California Institute of the Arts in 1971. Chicago is especially known for her enormous multimedia installation The Dinner Party: A Symbol of Our Heritage (1974–79). Made with over 400 collaborators, The Dinner Party was created to raise awareness of a forgotten women's history in a male-dominated society. Audrey Flack and
are also important feminist artists; Flack's photorealist paintings comment on stereotypes of femininity and Kruger deconstructs power relations in her photomontage images. Recent scholarship has argued that many of the early feminist artists were Jewish because as perennial outsiders and as the children or grandchildren of radical immigrants, fighting for justice and equality was a natural heritage. With such a link, feminist art by Jews would also be considered "Jewish Art" by critics who feel that elements of the Jewish experience, spiritual or secular, must be a prerequisite for art to receive this label.
In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Jewish artists worked in diverse manners.
engaged a Pop idiom in the vein of Andy Warhol during the 1960s. Emerging into the public eye in the 1970s,
paints figures in a flat, unemotional style that treats the human form with the same objectivity as the inanimate objects surrounding the model. Also painting figuratively,
typically fills his large canvases with the flattened, simplified heads and shoulders of his sitters rendered in crisp color.
explored and wrote about Conceptual Art in addition to making Minimalist sculpture, and
continues to make multimedia site-specific installations using his own life as source material. In contrast, sculptor and Process artist
asserts that his focus on the physical qualities of material and the act of creation leave little room for expressions of the artist's personality.
Some artists who mostly worked akin to the mainstream for the majority of their careers became interested in Jewish matter later in life. Raphael Soyer illustrated two volumes of Isaac Bashevis Singer's memoirs (1978, 1981) and two short stories by Singer for the Limited Editions Club (1979).
also illustrated a Singer story for the Limited Editions Club (1984) and painted an enormous three-paneled painting tackling the nearly four-millennia history of the Jews called History of Matzah (The Story of the Jews) (1982–84). Husband and wife William Meyerowitz and Theresa Bernstein traveled to Israel 13 times after 1948 and painted many images of the land after pursuing a more traditional American art trajectory before this time. Chaim Gross began sculpting Jewish subjects in the 1960s. While Ben Shahn and
explored some Jewish topics early on, they more consistently embraced Jewish identity in the visual arts as they aged, notably with Haggadah illustrations done in 1965 and 1974, respectively. Earlier in the century
(1941) illustrated a Haggadah with woodcuts.
Many Jewish American artists have treated the events of the Holocaust. Nahum Tschacbasov's 1936 canvas Deportation shows a crowd of emaciated deportees restrained by a fence. Ben-Zion was a poet who turned to painting because he felt that words could not adequately express the horrors of fascism and later the Shoah. Exhibited as a whole in 1946, the series De Profundis (Out of the Depths): In Memory of the Massacred Jews of Nazi Europe comprises 17 expressionistic works conveying the artist's distress at the events of the Holocaust that also pay homage to those who perished by Nazi hands.
lithograph Charnel House (1946) and the Burnt Man series of the early 1950s vividly describe victims being exterminated.
Interest in the Holocaust as a subject for art has only increased in the years since artists felt the immediacy of the tragedy. Audrey Flack's photorealist canvas World War II (Vanitas) (1976–77) presents a still life in collage format, including a Jewish star from her key chain and a photograph of the 1945 liberation of Buchenwald taken by
. Alice Lok Cahana, a survivor of several concentration camps, uses the visual to work through her memories of the Holocaust in semi-abstract mixed media images. Cahana's art, she explains, is her kaddish for those who perished. The sculptor
symbolically employs the biblical figures Eve, Abraham, Isaac, and Jesus in his Holocaust Memorial (1983), which overlooks the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco's Legion of Honor Park. Another Holocaust sculpture group by Segal is at the Jewish Museum in New York (1982). Judy Chicago's enormous installation Holocaust Project: From Darkness into Light (1985–93) is anchored by a 4½ by 18 foot tapestry titled The Fall, which portrays the disintegration of rationality. While united by an interest in imaging the unthinkable, Holocaust works by Jewish American artists differ greatly in approach, conception, and style.
In the last decade of the 20th century, Jewish identity became an increasing concern in the visual arts. New York City's Jewish Museum investigated
this phenomenon in the 1996 exhibition Too Jewish?: Challenging Traditional Identities. Paralleling a larger interest in multicultural difference by other marginalized groups, the 18 artists in the show explored Jewish consciousness, while also testing the viewer's and the art world's (dis)comfort with what was perceived by some as excessively conspicuous Jewishness. These highly assimilated younger artists portray vastly different concerns than their immigrant and first-generation predecessors. Long after Andy Warhol, Deborah Kass appropriates Pop techniques and fascination with celebrity in her portraits of Barbra Streisand (1992) and Sandy Koufax (1994). Titling her Streisand silkscreens Jewish Jackies (playing on Warhol's iconic silkscreens of Jackie Kennedy), Kass proffers the ethnic star while subverting American norms of beauty. Also influenced by Warhol, Adam Rolston's Untitled (Manischewitz American Matzos) (1993) asserts ethnicity into a once "pure" American consumer culture. Dennis Kardon's installation Jewish Noses (1993–95) presents an array of noses sculpted from 49 Jewish models, destabilizing the notion that the Jew can be categorized as a monolithic type.
Indeed, just as Kardon demonstrates that the Jew's body cannot be homogenized, neither can Jewish American art. As this essay has described, Jewish American artists (defined broadly) have worked in manifold fashions, partly and sometimes entirely influenced by larger trends, and at the same time making significant contributions in style and content. Jewish American art is a nascent field, rich in material and long due for further exploration.
Z. Amishai-Maisels, Depiction and Interpretation: The Influence of the Holocaust on the Visual Arts (1993); M. Baigell, Jewish-American Artists and the Holocaust (1997); M. Baigell, Jewish Artists in New York: The Holocaust Years (2002); S. Baskind, Raphael Soyer and the Search for Modern Jewish Art (2004); S. Goodman, Jewish Themes/Contemporary American Artists (1982); S. Goodman, Jewish Themes/Contemporary American Artists II (1986); J. Gutmann, "Jewish Participation in the Visual Arts of Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century America," in: American Jewish Archives (April 1963), 21–57; M. Heyd, Mutual Reflections: Jews and Blacks in American Art (1999); N. Kleeblatt and S. Chevlowe (eds.), Painting a Place in America: Jewish Artists in New York, 1900–1945 (1991); N. Kleeblatt, Too Jewish?: Challenging Traditional Identities (1996); P. Krasnow, "What of Jewish Art?: An Artist's Challenge," in: The Menorah Journal (December 1925), 535–43; L. Lozowick, "Jewish Artists of the Season," in: The Menorah Journal (June-July 1924), 282–85; H. Rosenberg, "Is There a Jewish Art?," in: Commentary (July 1966), 57–60; O. Soltes, Fixing the World: Jewish American Painters in the Twentieth Century (2003); S. Zalkind, Upstarts and Matriarchs: Jewish Women Artists and the Transformation of American Art (2005).
[Samantha Baskind (2nd ed.)]
When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they banned all art which they regarded as subversive – i.e., modern, avant-garde, Communist, Jewish, Negro – or to use their term, degenerate. The fate of this art and its creators was very clear: both should be eliminated from society. Degenerate works of art were removed from museums, galleries, and other collections; Jewish artists were not allowed to pursue their careers, lost their teaching positions, and were permitted to display their works only in the premises of the
. These degenerate works were assembled and put on show in Munich 1937 in the exhibition called "Degenerate Art" (Entartete Kunst), which was accompanied by vulgar and provocative quotations, accusing the artists of causing all the malaise of society and the world, thus warning the public of the dangers of such subversive artists.
Although Nazi laws should have been fully implemented in the concentration camp world, in many camps artistic creativity flourished and some of the works produced there were shown in exhibitions. Thus, ironically, the only place where these undesirable artists could produce and exhibit art was in their place of confinement.
During the Holocaust a tremendously rich variety of works of art were produced in the ghettos, hiding places, and camps of Nazi-occupied Europe. It was produced in extermination camps like Auschwitz, in the "model" camp of There-sienstadt, in transit camps like Westerbork in the Netherlands and Malines in Belgium, and in the network of camps set up throughout France, such as Drancy and Gurs. All these artists, whether professional or amateur, men or women, young or old, had one thing in common – they had been labeled undesirables, interned in the camps, cut off from society, and ordained to be victims of the Nazi Final Solution.
Artistic creation fulfilled many functions. It gave the artists a sense of self-assurance and allowed them to feel some connection with their past life as artists. It provided a way to pass the many hours of enforced idleness. It had barter value – the paintings that were commissioned by other inmates or by camp officials could be exchanged for food or other favors (such as smuggling out mail or some other improvement in conditions). Above all, art was the only means whereby the inmates could protest against their situation. They hoped that their protest would be heard beyond the barbed wire fences in the outside world, with the help of clandestine couriers mainly from the various welfare organizations and religious representatives who were permitted to enter the camp. Most of the paintings have documentary value, as the artists were aware of the necessity of recording for posterity the world in which they were imprisoned. Art, of course, does not merely portray an objective reflection of reality, but rather shows it through the personal prism of the artist. In other words, the works of art reflect the changing moods and feelings of the inmates/artists/witnesses.
Although the ghettos and the camps were isolated from each other certain themes were prevalent in these works of art. They include depictions of the barbed wire fences and the watchtowers, views of the camps, the daily routine, such as searching for food, attempts at personal hygiene, sickness and death, as well as landscapes and portraits. The common element in all these works is the need to portray and document in the closest detail the tragic and absurd circumstances in which the inmates found themselves. Such a situation was
completely unforeseeable and the inmates were in no way prepared for this unimaginable nightmare which recurred in all the various ghettos and camps.
The works that survived, frequently as the result of astounding resourcefulness, had these common themes regardless of whether they had been produced in Eastern or Western Europe, by professional artists or amateurs. About a quarter of the works are portraits, a fact that is not surprising. Portraying a face or a figure was in itself an act of commemoration, confirming the existence of the individual in a world where existence was so uncertain and arbitrary. These portraits were often used to send greetings to inmates' relatives, to show that they were alive and well. This explains why we frequently find the name of the subject of the picture next to the artist's signature, along with the date and place. It also explains why the figures in the portraits have a slightly better appearance than in reality, for the artist wanted to send a positive message and not show the misery of their situation. These portraits are in many cases the last record of people who soon afterwards were sent to their deaths.
Aizik-Adoplhe Féder (Odessa 1887–Auschwitz 1943) was interned in Drancy, on the outskirts of Paris, where he drew portraits of people from all walks of life who were interned in the camp – workers and intellectuals, observant Jews, women, teenagers, children and infants. Most of the inmates, especially the women, look well, and, except for the additional verbal information alongside the portrait – date and location of the work – there is no indication that the subjects are imprisoned in Drancy, a camp that was also known as the ante-chamber of Auschwitz.
Féder was part of the "Ecole de Paris," a group of artists, most of them Jews, who immigrated from Western Europe to Paris, hoping to establish their artistic careers there. Many of those artists such as
(Ben-Zion Rabinowicz; Bialystok 1905–Paris 1989), Abraham-Joseph Berline (Niejine, Ukraine 1894–Auschwitz 1942), Jacques Gotko (Gotkowski; Odessa 1900–Auschwitz 1943), David Goychman (Bogopol, Ukraine 1900–Auschwitz 1942), Isis-Israel Kischka (Paris 1908–Paris 1973), Savely Schleifer (Odessa 1881–Auschwitz 1942), and Zber (Fiszel Zilberberg; Plock, Poland 1909–Auschwitz 1942) were interned in various French camps such as Compiègne, Beaune-la-Rolande, Pithiviers, and Drancy, where they portrayed their co-inmates as well as themselves. The portraits usually carry identifying inscriptions, such as Kischka's Portrait of Uze, Internee in the Compiègne Camp, 29/3/42, or Portrait of Goychman by Kischka, 787122, 20/3/42, giving the artist's camp identification number alongside his name as a signature. Some of the portraits bear moving dedications, which attest to their amicable relationship.
Malva Schalek (Prague 1882–Auschwitz 1944), a daughter of a well-to-do, cultured Jewish family in Prague, established her reputation as an artist in Vienna, specialized in portraits, and was interned in Theresienstadt, where she continued painting her fellow inmates. Many of the portraits Schalek produced in the camp were commissioned, and she received food in payment, a practice which was not uncommon. Artists were commissioned by both inmates and by camp and ghetto administrators, in most cases asked to copy portraits of relatives from photographs or do their own likeness. In turn they received favors like better food or smuggled clandestine letters. This was experienced and attested by many artists such as Halina Olomucki (Warsaw 1919– ), who while interned in the Majdanek camp was commissioned by the head of the block to decorate the walls of the building. In return she received improved food rations. She used some of the materials she was given officially to paint her fellow women inmates clandestinely. From Majdanek she was transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and there too she was a "commissioned artist" for the Germans. For this she received more substantial food, which helped her to survive. Esther Lurie (Liepaja, Latvia 1913–Tel Aviv 1998), while interned in the Kovno (Kaunas) ghetto, was commissioned by the Council of Elders (Aeltestenrat) to record ghetto life; to this end they arranged that she would not be engaged in any forced labor; later on when, while interned in Stutthof, the artist was asked by women inmates who had boyfriends to draw their portraits in return for a slice of bread. The painter-musician Isaac Schoenberg (Colmar, Alsace 1907–Auschwitz 1942), who was interned in Pithiviers, wrote to his beloved in Paris that he had to decline some of the inmates' requests to do their portraits, although he was paid more than the other artists in the camp, since he was engaged in producing her likeness from photographs, an activity which enabled him to endure life in the camp. Even amateur artists such as Etienne Rosenfeld (Budapest 1920–Paris 1995) were commissioned by their fellow inmates to draw their or their relatives' portraits, as is attested in his letters from the Drancy camp.
Another theme was the portrayal of the camps, particularly the barbed wire fences and watchtowers, which over time have become symbols of the Holocaust. They were part of the everyday experience of the prisoners, a constant reminder that they were confined in a closed camp, cut off from the society of which they had been an integral part up to a short while before. The barbed wire fences are a dominant element in many pictures. They appear in landscapes and genre paintings, while in some cases they have become the actual subject of the picture. Sometimes the fences are shown as a spider's web in which the figures are entangled, as, for example, in the aquarelle by Lou Albert-Lazard (Metz 1895–Paris 1969), depicting women imprisoned in the Gurs camp (France). Albert-Lazard, a German Jew who immigrated to Paris in the 1920s and was interned as a German alien, portrays the women as trapped by the barbed wire fence. Despite the delicacy of the painting, the barbed wire fence restricts their movements and closes in on them like a wall. The imprisoning barbed wire fence and the threatening watchtower, with an all-seeing eye at the top, are the central
elements in the drawings and prints done by Jacques Gotko. At times, there is even an element of humor, with the artist painting laundry hung out to dry on the fence, as did the amateur artist Hanna Schramm (Berlin 1896–Paris 1978), a socialist activist who had sought refuge in France and was interned in Gurs on the outbreak of the war and depicted the miserable life there in ironic-humoristic drawings. But, however depicted, the prevalence of this motif stresses the sense of confinement the inmates experienced.
The forced communal life in ghettos and camps meant living in extremely crowded conditions with the need for privacy denied, no matter what race or sex the inmates were or what social standing they had enjoyed in their previous existence. The feeling of suffocation and the lack of private space is depicted by Malva Schalek in various aquarelles she produced in Theresienstadt. In many of her paintings she depicts the activity, or lack of it, in the camp. Sometimes she draws the interior as crowded and claustrophobic, with women and children lying or sitting on the triple-layered bunks, surrounded by bundles and suitcases. In others she portrays inmates reading or lying down. Similar depictions were produced by Osias Hofstaetter (Bochnia, Poland 1905–Ramat Gan, Israel 1994), who immigrated to Belgium, from where he was sent, after the Nazis invaded this country, to the French internment camps of Saint Cyprien and Gurs, where he depicted the forced idleness of men in and out of the barracks, as well as the overcrowdedness.
Some interior scenes, as those done by Jane Lévy (Paris 1884–Auschwitz 1943) in Drancy or Emmy Falck-Ettlinger (Lubeck 1882–Bet ha-Shtitah, Israel 1960) in Gurs, are characterized by extreme order and cleanliness. They depict kitchen utensils and personal items, a kind of desire to create a feeling of intimacy, warmth, and domesticity. Yet these works evoke a feeling of desolation and emptiness which even the domesticity of the interior cannot overcome.
Countless paintings show everyday, routine activities – bathing, washing one's hair, going to the toilet – since these basic human acts could no longer be taken for granted in the surroundings the inmates now found themselves in. Bathing was extremely difficult, as the water supply was completely inadequate for all the inmates and available only a few hours a day and often had to be done outdoors. Going to the toilet was no less embarrassing. The most intimate bodily functions had to be performed in public, adding to the dehumanization of the inmates. This may seem trifling compared to the acts of mass murder that were taking place at the time, but it should be remembered that the daily life of the inmates consisted in trying to meet the numerous "trifling" needs that are basic to civilized human life.
Many artists depict these activities, sometimes in humoristic drawings or aquarelles. Karl Schwesig (Gelsenkirchen, Germany, 1898–Duesseldorf 1955), a German communist who had fled from Germany after Hitler's rise to power and was a political refugee in Belgium, was interned in four different French camps. From his vast experience he depicted daily life, which became worse with the time. Many of his drawings illustrate the way the inmates were cooped up with a lack of hygienic facilities, as did other artists in the various camps – all attesting to the embarrassment and humiliation which accompanied these activities.
The inmates suffered constantly from hunger, which weakened them both physically and mentally. Hunting for food was one of the main occupations of the camp inmates. Many paintings portray the subject of food, or the lack of food, ranging from lining up to get the daily rations (Leo Haas, Opava, Czechoslovakia 1901–Berlin 1983), to guarding a scrap of bread as though it were a treasure (Lili Rilik-Andrieux, Berlin 1914–San Diego 1996), to rummaging through the garbage to find a bite to eat that might ease the pangs of hunger (Karl Schwesig; Sigismond Kolos (Vary, Transylvania 1899–?)). Pictures of this last scene serve to illustrate again the degradation that was forced upon the camp inmates.
In the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum at Auschwitz, there is a Memories Calendar (Kalendarz wspomnień) comprising 22 small drawings (18 × 10 cm), produced in Auschwitz in 1944 by Ewa Gabanyi, prisoner no. 4739. Gabanyi was born in Czechoslovakia to a Jewish family and interned on April 3, 1942. The pictures in her calendar are mostly theatrical and fantastic – surrealistic dances and balls, elaborate costumes, weird animals, and exotic scenery. One picture stands out as completely different, as she depicts a woman prisoner in her striped dress eating soup, with the inscription First soup in the camp (Zjada pierwswą Zoupkę Lagrową), dated April 27, 1942; hence her first hot meal came three weeks after her arrival in Auschwitz. A picture that seemed completely naturalistic turns out to have a surrealistic aspect in the world of the camps.
The huge numbers sent to camps and from there deported to the death camps were portrayed by various artists such as Dr. Karel Fleischmann (Klatovy, Czechoslovakia 1897–Auschwitz 1944) and Charlotte Buresova (Prague 1904–Prague 1983) in Thereisienstadt, David Brainin (Kharkov, Ukraine 1905–Auschwitz 1942) in Compiègne, Kurt-Connard Loew (Vienna 1914–Vienna 1980), and Julius-Collen Turner (Schivelbein, Germany 1881–?) in Gurs, and Leo Maillet (Leopold Mayer; Frankfurt-am-Main 1902–Switzerland 1990) in Les Milles. In these pictures the artists usually depict faceless masses rather than individuals being sent on their last journey. Yet in several pictures, amidst the endless lines of people stretching beyond the horizon, the artist reveals the face of one of the deportees, often a child clinging to its mother or a disabled old person guarded by soldiers with pointed weapons. These scenes depict with bitter irony the imbalance of power – the innocence and the helplessness of the deportees versus the power of the executioners.
The camps were often situated in beautiful areas, with snow-covered mountains in the distance or picturesque seaside villages, which were in sharp contrast to the
misery of the life within the barbed wire fences (e.g., Karel Fleischmann, Karl Schwesig, Lou Albert-Lazard). Many artists painted these views, which provided them with a kind of connection with the outside world. The colors of a beautiful sunset, while serving to remind them of ordinary life, also brought home the indifference of nature to their suffering.
Artists sought to use their work as means to make contact with the outside world and let people know what was happening "on the other side of the fence." They did this despite the danger inherent in such activity, as can be seen in the fate of Leo Haas and Dr. Karel Fleischmann, inmates of There-sienstadt, who paid a high price for their efforts to smuggle their works out of the ghetto. In preparation for a visit of the Red Cross in summer 1944, the Germans searched the artists' quarters. They did this because they realized that the truth about their "model ghetto" was likely to be revealed in paintings being smuggled out of Theresienstadt. The artists refused to talk and after being interrogated and tortured were taken to a Gestapo prison. Eventually they were deported to Auschwitz, where Fleischmann died.
Contact with the outside world was of tremendous importance to the camp inmates, and in many cases it was art that paved the way. In some camps, such as Gurs and Compiègne, exhibitions were held. These exhibitions were visited by the Nazi administration and, in some cases, members of the public from the surrounding area. The inmates felt, for a brief moment, as if they had broken through the fence and were involved in the outside world. It should be noted, however, that these events were not mentioned in the press, which used to stress that the camp inmates were parasites and profiteers. Presenting them as creative and productive would not have fit this negative stereotype.
Artists arrived in the camps from all over Europe, from cities, towns and villages and from all levels of society. As we have seen, despite the artistic variety of their work, one unifying factor was common to them all – they all portrayed the grim reality and their cruel experiences, with a sense of longing for their former world which had disintegrated so totally.
The art of the Holocaust is unique in the history of art. In a state of hunger and destitution, with death a constant part of their daily existence, hundreds of artists did not allow the spark of the human spirit to be extinguished. In the universal language of art they portrayed the images of one of the darkest periods in human history.
Z. Amishai-Maisels, Depiction and Interpretation: The Influence of the Holocaust on the Visual Arts (1993); J. Blatter and S. Milton, Art of the Holocaust (1982); H. Fenster, Nos artistes martyrs (Undzere Farpainikte Kinstler) (Yid., 1951); M.S. Costanza, The Living Witness: Art in the Concentration Camps and Ghettos (1982); G. Green, The Artists of Terezin (1969); M. Novitch, Spiritual Resistance: Art from Concentration Camps 1940–1945. A selection of drawings and paintings from the collection of Kibbutz Loḥamei ha-Getta'ot, Israel. Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Philadelphia (1981); P. Rosenberg, L'art des Indésirables: l'art dans les camps d'internement français 1939–1944 (2003).
[Pnina Rosenberg (2nd ed.)]
Reactions in the visual arts to the Nazi persecution of the Jews paralleled Adolf Hitler's rise to power and continue to this day. Unlike Holocaust Art – a name that designates the art produced by inmates in the ghettos and concentration camps (see above) – art that responded to the Holocaust has no clear name and its definition is highly complex. It was created by survivors as well as by refugees who fled to the free world before or during the war; by camp liberators who discovered the shocking truth of the Holocaust for themselves; by the children of survivors or refugees who carry in themselves the burden of memories, pain, and guilt transmitted to them from their parents; and by non-participants who may have lost relatives in the Holocaust or were simply shocked by it or by the idea that its lessons remain unlearned. Some artists reacted immediately, occasionally even anticipating events to come. Others – including survivors who had tried to turn their backs on their past – reacted to events that triggered their emotions: the discovery of the camps, the Eichmann trial, Israel's wars, or other examples of genocide. Such artists came from all religions – Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. – and all nationalities, including Germans (e.g., Anselm Kiefer) who wish to express their own stance on the subject or to atone for the past. For some, the Holocaust was a specific event occurring in a set period of time; for others, it was an archetypal event which could be used to comment on other catastrophes – Hiroshima, genocide in Africa, or the Aids epidemic.
Moreover, artists had different motivations in using this subject. Some, such as
, documented the scenes on the spot or – like Audrey Flack and
– on the basis of photographs, while others (for instance,
) emotionally denounced cruelty and mass murder. Whereas survivors and their children often used art as therapy to recover from the past, most artists used it to make sure that the Holocaust would be remembered by memorializing it. Many reacted by affirming their Jewish identity, at first by depicting figures in prayer or the shtetl, as in the works of
. More recently a few artists (such as
) have begun to see the Holocaust itself as their sole means of Jewish identity. Still others, for example,
and Karel Appel, responded in a highly personal manner by changing their style and subject matter in ways that are not self-evidently connected to the Holocaust but are revealed to be reactions to it on the basis of the artists' statements.
The artists' goals were often linked with the styles they chose to employ. For instance, Realism was used in witness reports as a means of confronting the spectator with the facts and convincing him of their truth, while Expressionism was used to express anger and heighten the denunciatory power
of the work. Surrealism was often used to convey the idea that such events were taking place on "another planet," whereas Abstraction was a means of distancing the artist from the Holocaust and allowing it to be confronted from a safe place.
Although painters and sculptors had been working on the subject since 1933, it was the photographs and films taken by the liberators in 1944–45 that had the most immediate and lasting impact on the public at large. Appearing in magazines and newsreels, these reports turned everyone into a witness. It is for this reason that the most common images of the Holocaust in the public imagination are those they recorded: the mounds of corpses, the bald and emaciated survivors barely able to move, and the inmates crowded together behind barbed wire or in their bunks. Some of these images still inspire artists today (for instance, in the paintings of Natan Nuchi), but this source material has now been broadened to include the Nazis' own documentary snapshots of the ghettos, deportations, and executions as well as the identification photographs they took of the camp inmates, a type that influenced Aaron Gluska. Today new documentary photographs have been taken by artists who visit the camps. These images differ from the older ones in showing the camp as empty and clean, well-preserved monuments rather than the hellholes they were.
Several common motifs and themes run through all categories of Holocaust-related art. The primary image of the camp from the mid-1930s was of people behind barbed wire, an image used by John Heartfield because one of the few facts known then about the camps was that they were surrounded by barbed wire fences. This representation was reinforced after the camps were liberated, as photographers such as
took their stance outside the fence looking into the camp. The image was so pervasive and clearly understood that it could be suggested by including a single piece of barbed wire into an abstract composition, as was done by
. Another primary symbol was the refugee, a subject documented by the refugees themselves (e.g.,
) and by those who wanted to state their plight. This image was transformed after the war by artists such as
into that of the displaced person to represent survivors who were trying to find a place to stay. This subject slowly disappeared after 1948, as the State of Israel was seen as having solved this problem. It has recently been reinstated, as in a painting by Joan Snyder, in an attempt to identify Palestinian refugees with the victims of the Holocaust. Another image that was popular during the war was that of the Jewish partisan, especially those who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising depicted in the monument by
. Upheld at first as an image of Jewish pride in resistance to the Nazis, it was eventually supplanted by that of the Israeli soldier.
Other symbols became common only after the war, for instance the symbolic use of the crematorium chimney and the image of emaciated corpses or survivors, themes that grew out of the experience of liberating the camps and understanding what had happened there. Whereas the chimney and the survivors were relatively easy for Friedensreich Hundertwasser and George Grosz respectively to handle, the corpses were repugnant and many artists followed Pablo Picasso's lead in translating them into more stylized images. On the other hand, artists such as Zoran Music and Robert Morris later specifically portrayed the corpses in all their expressive reality to awaken the failed conscience of the modern world that continues to commit genocide.
All the above symbols were taken from the camp experience. But artists who were interested in learning moral lessons from the Holocaust also culled other images from religion and mythology to convey their ideas. Thus the victim can be portrayed through biblical symbols, such as the sacrifice of Isaac or Job who questions God, as in the works of
respectively. These subjects could also be used to vent anger against God for allowing the Holocaust to happen, as in the work of
. Marc Chagall led the way in depicting the victims as the crucified Jewish Jesus, in an attempt to make Christians understand what was occurring. Resistance to Nazism was symbolized by
by means of David slaying a Nazi Goliath and Prometheus slaying the vulture.
The portrayal of the Nazis was more difficult: their portrayal as monsters or demons as in the works of
ignores the fact that those who carried out the Holocaust were human beings. However, portraying them realistically as humans, as Gerhart Frankl did, underplays the horrific dimensions of their deeds. Beginning with Lipchitz, some artists concluded that the problem lay not only with the Nazis, and used their art to warn mankind that there is a beast lurking within us which must be tamed lest we cause other holocausts. Others, such as Matta and
, took a more pessimistic view of man's monstrous nature and portrayed ambiguous figures whose nature cannot be clearly defined as good or evil.
The Holocaust also prompted Jewish artists to take a renewed look at their Judaism. While some affirmed their faith and Jewish identity and others expressed their anger against God, a few stressed their lack of faith in the future of Judaism. Thus
depicted a destroyed and patched-up Ten Commandments that will never be the same. Whereas the establishment of the State of Israel was at first seen by artists such as Chagall and Lipchitz as an answer to the Holocaust and a solution to the problems it caused, Israel's continuing wars – especially the threats to its existence in 1967, 1973, and 1991 – led artists such as Erich Brauer to see in each event a potential renewal of the Holocaust. Moreover, the resurgence of antisemitism in the 1980s caused
to begin to deal with the Holocaust.
On the other hand, the conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians since 1967 have caused left-wing artists to adapt Holocaust imagery to this issue, with the Palestinians replacing the Jews. This generalization of Holocaust imagery is part of a wider phenomenon in which such images are applied to any current conflict in order to activate an inbred, unquestioning
hatred against those who have been clothed in the despised Nazi imagery and an equally innate sympathy for those depicted as victims.
The newest developments in art inspired by the Holocaust can best be examined through three themes. First, children of survivors, such as Yocheved Weinfeld and Haim Maor, try to understand their parents' experiences by picturing themselves in their place and exploring how they would have reacted. The second theme – ghosts – is poignantly demonstrated by Shimon Attie's projections of old black and white photographs of the Jewish inhabitants of Berlin and Rome on the walls of these cities, so that they seem to be haunting their streets. The third subject is the expression of constant anxiety, a feeling Jonathan Borofsky explicitly connects with the Holocaust. Such new themes suggest that artists have not finished examining the Holocaust and that they will continue to find new means to express its relevance to the modern world.
Z. Amishai-Maisels, Depiction and Interpretation: The Influence of the Holocaust on the Visual Arts (1993); M. Baigell, Jewish-American Artists and the Holocaust (1997); M. Bohm-Duchen, Monica (ed.), Art after Auschwitz (1995); S.C. Feinstein (ed.), Absence/Presence: Critical Essays on the Artistic Memory of the Holocaust (2005); idem, Witness and Legacy: Contemporary Art about the Holocaust (1995); S. Hornstein and F. Jacobowitz (eds.), Image and Remembrance: Representation and the Holocaust (2003); S. Horn-stein, L. Levitt, and L.J. Silberstein. Impossible Images: Contemporary Art after the Holocaust (2003); D.G. Roskies, Against the Apocalypse (1984); Washington Project for the Arts. Burnt Whole (1994); J. Young, At Memory's Edge: After-Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture (2000); idem, Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meanings (1993).
[Ziva Amishai-Maisels (2nd ed.)]
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