ARTHUR SZYK, ‘Arsenal of Democracy,’ New York, 1942: The artist saw himself as a ‘soldier in art.’  (photo credit: Courtesy Historicana, www.szyk.com)
ARTHUR SZYK, ‘Arsenal of Democracy,’ New York, 1942: The artist saw himself as a ‘soldier in art.’ (photo credit: Courtesy Historicana, www.szyk.com)
Jerusalem's distinguished guests: The collector, his artist inspiration
 

California collector Irvin Ungar has arrived in Israel, where he will receive special recognition by the University of Haifa, following his major donation of his collection of Jewish Publication Society of America imprints to the American Studies Division of the university’s library. During his visit, he will also be giving free lectures on his “friend,” the Polish Jewish artist Arthur Szyk (1894-1951). 

Ungar served as a congregational rabbi in the US for 13 years, prior to establishing his firm, Historicana, 35 years ago. The company specializes in the buying and selling of historic Judaica, rare books and manuscripts that capture the spirit, essence and history of the Jewish people. In recent years, he has begun to gift aspects of his collections to institutions, universities and libraries.

“I had no business experience, I had no money, and no inventory, but I learned fast,” he recalled.

“I had no business experience, I had no money, and no inventory, but I learned fast.”

Irvin Ungar

Falling in love with the art of Arthur Szyk

Over 30 years ago, Ungar fell in love with the artwork of Arthur Szyk and has dedicated himself to reviving the work of this once-famous and virtually forgotten artist. Szyk is best known for his outstanding Haggadah, first published in London in 1940 and reprinted as trade editions in Israel beginning in 1956. 

Ungar researched the artist and found that he had drawn many works that attacked Hitler, totalitarian regimes, and the brutal antisemitism of individual rulers throughout the world. Szyk captured in his work the anguish of the Jews during the Holocaust and urged “Action – not pity!” by the Free World.

Arthur Szyk. Paris, early 1930s. (credit: Courtesy)Arthur Szyk. Paris, early 1930s. (credit: Courtesy)

As steps for a Jewish state, he elevated the role of the Jewish soldier during World War II and later captured the historic moment of Israel’s declaration of statehood with his own illuminated Proclamation of the Establishment of the State of Israel. Szyk worked without pause to elevate the prestige of the Jew in the world.

Through Ungar’s efforts, major solo exhibitions of Szyk’s work have taken place at the New York Historical Society; the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC; the German Historical Museum in Berlin; the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco; and the Library of Congress. Ungar, a riveting public speaker, has also published several books about Szyk. ❖

Ungar will speak on “Visions of Israel: The Jewish State through the Art of Arthur Szyk,” Sunday, August 14 at 8 p.m., at the Kol HaOt gallery in Hutzot Hayotzer.

On Thursday, August 18 at 4 p.m., he will present “Arthur Szyk: Soldier in Art,” at the Bayit Balev senior residence in Rehavia. For more information, call 050-215-1851. Seating is limited.

On August 31, Ungar will speak at the Chaim Herzog Museum of the Jewish Soldier in World War II, in Latrun. Time to be announced.



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