“In his dexterity Szyk recalls a bygone age of monastic scribes slaving over parchment pages. [His] illustrations are more intricate than Swiss watch works and sublimely obsessive. Reproductions hardly do the originals justice.”
— Michael Kimmelman, The New York Times
“Arthur Szyk’s drawings are evidence of an exceptional mastery of crafts and of artistic inspiration.”
— Katja Widmann and Johannes Zechner, Curators, Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin, 2008
“To call Arthur Szyk the greatest illuminator since the sixteenth century is no flattery. It is the simple truth which becomes manifest to any person who studies his work with the care which it deserves.”
— Cecil Roth, Historian, London, 1940s
“[Szyk] makes not only cartoons, but beautiful composed pictures which suggest, in their curiously decorative quality, the inspired illuminations of the early religious manuscripts.”
— Thomas Craven, Art Critic, New York, 1940s
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About Arthur Szyk
WW II and Holocaust
With the support of the British government and the London-based Polish government-in-exile, Szyk immigrated to New York in 1940 to publish his scathing war cartoons and persuade the Americans to join the Allied war effort. He quickly earned a reputation as a “soldier in art,” fighting a personal war for the survival of democracy and the survival of his people, the Jews of Europe.
In early 1941, G.P. Putnam’s Sons published a collection of Szyk caricatures, The New Order, the first anti-Nazi book of its kind. By the time of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Szyk was firmly embedded in American pop culture. Nearly every American was familiar with his iconic caricatures of Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito, which were featured on magazine covers, as newspaper editorials, in advertisements for war bonds, at USO bases, and even in U.S. War Department pamphlets and films.
Though Szyk’s satire proved popular and effective, ridicule was not Szyk’s only tool against the Axis. He frequently appealed to his audience’s compassion and sense of decency, denouncing the wartime suffering of innocents—most notably in his artwork for the Peter Bergson Group, an organization that lobbied for the immediate rescue of European Jews.