“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
Born in 1894 to a well-to-do family in Łódź, Poland, Szyk grew up with a love of the arts and his Polish-Jewish heritage.
In 1909, the young prodigy studied at the prestigious Académie Julien, a progressive art school in Paris. The city pulsed with visual ideas—such as Orientalism and decorative folk art—that undoubtedly inspired his work. Szyk returned to Poland in 1913. He worked as an editorial cartoonist and as a costume and set designer while informally attending the Krakow Academy of the Arts.
Szyk soon traveled to Palestine and the Middle East to gather material for an art exhibit on modern Jewish pioneers, an experience that shaped his lifelong commitment to Zionism. His trip was cut short by the onset of World War I: the Russian army conscripted Szyk to serve as a lieutenant in one of its guerilla divisions. A few years later, the Polish Army in Łódź recruited the artist to be director of the Department of Propaganda during the Polish-Soviet war.
Szyk continued to create art on his own time and, in 1919, he published his first book of caricatures, Rewolucja w. Niemczech [Revolution in Germany], a satire of post-WWI Germany.