“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
In 1921, Szyk returned to Paris, the epicenter of the contemporary art world. His first solo show, at the Galeries A. Decour in 1922, attracted several international collectors and quickly sold out.
In addition to gallery exhibitions, Szyk worked on illustrations for limited edition fine art books, such as Le Livre d’Esther, Le Puits de Jacob, and Le Tentation de Saint Antoine. The commercial success of these publications—plus the popular Le Juif Qui Rit—allowed a comfortable life for his wife and two young children.
However, historical and political issues were never far from Szyk’s mind. He made his reputation in Europe with his 1927 illumination of the Statute of Kalisz (published in Munich, 1932), the 13th century “Jewish Magna Carta” that granted civil and religious privileges to the Jews of Poland. The Polish government asked to sponsor a multi-city exhibition of the original artwork of the Statute, a proposition Szyk accepted wholeheartedly.
In 1931, the League of Nations invited Szyk to attend one of its conferences in Geneva, a trip that inspired him to begin an illumination of the League’s Covenant. In 1933, he visited America in conjunction with an exhibition of his series, Washington and His Times (published in Vienna, 1932), a visual celebration of the heroes of the American Revolution.