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Arthur Szyk
 
 
 
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Jewish CookingWithout food we can't live. We all have heard the famous line, "Man does not live by bread alone ...." What does it mean? The verse comes from Torah [Bible] and is a reference to the miraculous manna, which fell from heaven daily during the Jewish people's sojourn in the wilderness. The conclusion of the verse is that "rather, by the utterance of God's mouth does man live." Thus, it is reminding us about the true source of human sustenance.
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Arthur Szyk (1894-1951) is considered by scholars to have been the greatest twentieth-century illuminator working in the style of the sixteenth-century miniaturist painters, and the leading political caricaturist in America during World War II. His Haggadah was described by the Times of London as "worthy to be placed among the most beautiful of books that the hand of man has produced." Arthur Szyk is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable and talented artists of modern times.   The last few years have seen a growing interest in Arthur Szyk (pronounced "Shick"). While many remember him from their youth by marveling at his illustrated Andersen's Fairy Tales and Pathways Through the Bible, others may recall his poignant World .

War II caricatures and cartoons on the front covers of many of America's leading magazines (Collier's, Time, Esquire). His graphic political editorials lampooned the Nazi and Axis leaders with brilliant parodies seething with mockery and scorn. Some remember seeing his works exhibited at the 1939 World's Fair, others have viewed them on display at The White House or in The FDR Library at Hyde Park. Recognized and decorated by numerous governments both on a local and national level, Szyk's reputation is international. His books, the Haggadah, Andersen's Fairy Tales, and The Ten Commandments continue to be reprinted. Museum exhibits are being held and the illustrated book, Justice Illuminated:
The Art of Arthur Szyk
, has been recently published.

The four figures [shown above] epitomize the Jewish cultural and class struggles in inter-war Poland. The wise figure is a delicate, intelligent yeshiva bochur (unmarried student), dressed traditionally yet meticulously. His body language expresses the grace and modesty of the Torah student, ideally understood as an intellectual and religious aristocrat. In contrast, the wicked figure is a middle-aged bourgeois Jew dressed to show off his aspirations to Western European modernity.

While the wise student has no props, not even a book, the wicked figure sports a riding crop, a cigarette with cigarette holder, and a stylish monocle. He is dressed in a hunting outfit with a jaunty Tyrollian hat with a feather, an ascot around his neck, silk gloves and sharp spurs on his leather boots. His stance is self-confident, self-contained and arrogant in contrast to the simpleton who is fat and smiling, opening himself to the world trustingly with arms and legs spread out.

While the simpleton is still traditionally dressed with a small tallis, the one who does not even know how to ask is a worker dressed poorly, wearing proletarian boots, without any visible link to Jewish tradition. His contemplative expression suggests that his direction in life is not yet determined.


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