Published: November 23, 2010
Arthur Szyk (1894‱951) is remembered today as an artist and illustrator whose work ranged from illustrations for traditional Jewish and Polish folktales and religious texts to watercolor designs for political cartoons that were regularly featured on the cover of Collier’s magazine throughout the 1930s and 1940s.
The exhibition “Arthur Szyk: Miniature Paintings and Modern Illuminations” at the Legion of Honor December 4 to March 27 explores Szyk’s artistry over a productive career and returns the artist to the Legion of Honor, where a selection of his watercolors was shown 70 years ago, in 1941. This single-gallery presentation of 71 works on paper by Szyk also includes a handful of comparative works by Léon Bakst, Aubrey Beardsley and Albrecht Dürer.
Szyk used a highly detailed and decorative style of illumination throughout his career, finding it an appropriate means of expression for projects as varied as political caricature and propaganda, designs for honorific medals and badges, and illustrations for book projects ranging from important religious texts to literary classics. The exhibition is organized chronologically, allowing visitors to witness the artist’s continued dedication to this very personal style, from his early works in Paris, and throughout his later career in Lodz, London, Ottawa, New York and New Canaan, Conn.
Szyk’s renowned Passover “Haggadah” (1940) is included in a special section of the exhibition devoted to the artist’s book illustration projects. also included are designs for Hans Christian Andersen’s Andersen Fairy Tales, 1945 and Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, 1946.
Installed at the end of the exhibition are some of the drawings for one of his last projects, a series of stamp album covers, commissioned upon the founding of the United Nations in 1945. In this series, Szyk combined symbols and allusions to personages past and present that referred to the unique histories of the subject countries that were all early UN member states, and countries with which Szyk had a deep personal connection.
The Legion of Honor is in Lincoln Park, 34th Avenue and Clement Street. For information, 415-750-3600 or www.legionofhonor.org .
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