About Arthur Szyk

From Łódź to London

One year after Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, Szyk ended his seven-month U.S. trip to return to his hometown of Łódź, Poland. He sensed the danger that Nazism posed to the world, and to the Jews of Europe in particular, and so mounted an artistic response.

Szyk spent the mid-1930s illustrating The Haggadah, retelling the ancient Passover narrative as if it were an event unfolding in his own time. He portrayed the ancient Hebrews as Eastern European Jews and the Egyptians as modern-day Nazis, complete with blond hair, blue eyes, and swastikas on their clothing. As Germany was growing more powerful by the day, no publisher in continental Europe was willing to produce a book with overt Nazi symbols. (Szyk ultimately removed them.)

Szyk brought his 48 illuminations to London, where he spent his time supervising the publication of The Haggadah. As in Paris, galleries in London—such as the Brook Street Gallery—were eager to show his work, especially after newspapers reported Queen Mary’s purchase of a Szyk miniature painting of St. George and the dragon.

In 1939, the Polish Pavilion at New York’s World’s Fair exhibited Szyk’s Polish American Fraternity series to advance US-Poland relations. That same year, Germany invaded Poland—and Szyk launched his one-man war against Fascism.

Learn about Arthur Szyk’s WWII and Holocaust period Next: Learn about Arthur Szyk’s WWII and Holocaust period.

The Great Halleil, The Szyk Haggadah, Łódź, 1935.

The Family at the Seder, The Szyk Haggadah, Łódź, 1936.

Kazimierz Pulaski, Polish American Fraternity Series. Krakow, 1939.

Catalogue for Brook Street Galleries Exhibition. London, 1939.