December 9, 1999–May 6, 2000
Arthur Szyk (1894–1951) was one America's leading political artists during World War II, when he produced hundreds of anti-Axis illustrations and cartoons in aid of the Allied war effort. Throughout his career he created art in the service of human rights and civil liberties—in his native Poland, in Paris where he was trained during the 1920s, and in America, the country he adopted in 1940. Settling in the United States, Szyk announced, “At last, I have found the home I have always searched for. Here I can speak of what my soul feels. There is no other place on earth that gives one the freedom, liberty and justice that America does.”
Born of Jewish parents in Lodz, Poland, Szyk acquired his early art training in Paris and Cracow. Between 1919 and 1920, during Poland's war against the Soviet Bolsheviks, he served as artistic director of the Department of Propaganda for the Polish army regiment quartered in Lodz. In 1921, he moved to Paris where he lived and worked for ten years. In 1934, Szyk traveled to the United States for exhibitions of his work, including one at the Library of Congress where a series of thirty-eight miniatures commemorating George Washington and the Revolutionary period were shown. In late 1940, after a period of residence in England, he immigrated to the United States.
In America, Arthur Szyk embraced the patriotic and democratic spirit of his adopted country. His work entitled The United States of America, includes portrayals of an African American and Native American, representing the diversity of American society, as well as familiar imagery—Hoover Dam, the Manhattan skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Pony Express. His anti-Axis cartoons appeared frequently in such popular magazines as Collier's and in two published compilations, The New Order (1941) and Ink & Blood (1946). He also illustrated numerous works, including a richly rendered, magnificently printed Haggadah (1940), reflecting his passion for his own Jewish heritage and concern for the Jewish people in the face of Nazi hostility.