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24, Kislev 5778

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Jewish Programs


Art Gallery Exhibits at PJCC

PJCC provides rotating exhibits throughout the year that feature everything from paintings and photography to fine arts and collections.

Previous Exhibit

Arthur Szyk: Illuminator for Freedom

On loan from the Arthur Szyk Society
May 2009
PJCC Art Gallery

This exhibit is made possible by generous grants from the Walter and Elise Haas Fund, the Koret Foundation and the Eva Chernov Lokey Endowment for programs. 

This exhibition combines two integral components of the oeuvre of Polish-Jewish artist Arthur Szyk (1894-1951): his rich religious illumination, namely the famed Szyk* Haggadah, as well as his artistic commitment to democratic themes.  The thread that unites these two fundamental artistic impulses is Szyk’s commitment to crafting a message of equality and freedom, particularly the freedom of religion protected by the U.S. Bill of Rights.  In his work, he chooses subjects that allow him to explore themes of freedom, its costs, and the importance of remembering the sacrifices of one’s ancestors.

The majority of this exhibit is comprised of lithographs from Szyk’s series “Washington and His Times.” Here, the viewer can appreciate the dramatic and emotional subjects Szyk explored as he made visible the road to American independence.  Regal portraits of national leaders and war heroes are supplemented with emotive battle scenes that reference ideas of sacrifice and brotherhood while lauding the underlying national principles of democracy, freedom, and equality. 

Rounding out the exhibit, the prints from Szyk’s Haggadah emphasize the importance of collective memory in both a religious and a historical context.  In particular, The Four Questions and The Bread of Affliction reference the foundations of Jewish faith and stress the importance of understanding the struggle of those that came before.  They also provide a powerful reminder of the cost of personal freedom.  A Polish Jew living in exile during World War II, Szyk’s prescient interpretation of the Passover narrative served as a commemoration of his rich cultural heritage and chilling reminder that the persecutions the Jews suffered in antiquity form part of a larger struggle still being fought in contemporary times.  Contemplating these religious-themed prints, one can appreciate the correlation between Szyk’s interest in American history and his  personal interest in the Jewish plight of the 1930s. 

This collection speaks to the collective human struggle towards ideals of freedom, independence, and liberty, and serves as a wonderful introduction to the diverse and thought-provoking work of Arthur Szyk.

* = pronounced shick

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