Social Concern and Left Politics in Jewish American Art
"Baigell, the premier scholar of Jewish American
art, has written what promises to be the
definitive study of its political and social concerns
in the 1930s, tracing them back to the
1880s, and showing how they were informed
by the artists’ religious heritage."—Donald Kuspit, Distinguished Professor Emeritus
of Art History and Philosophy, State University of New York at Stony Brook
"Baigell reaches deep into new sources to present a stimulating and
needed treatment of a neglected topic in the annals of Jewish, American,
and political art. I read the book wanting to know more about a
few artists I was already familiar with but came away with a fascination
for a whole generation of Jewish artists that is mostly lost to history."—Samuel D. Gruber, president, International Survey of Jewish Monuments
Matthew Baigell is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Art History at Rutgers University.
He is the author of numerous books, including American Artists, Jewish Images, and Jewish
Art in America: An Introduction.
Book Description »[Close »]
Of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Jewish artists, a large number
turned toward radical socialist politics. These artists, even the most secularized
among them, were deeply influenced by the Jewish traditions, teachings, and
culture in which they were raised. The communal thrust of Judaism that calls
upon Jews to bear the responsibility for the moral, spiritual, and material welfare
of their community informed the creative output of these artists.
Baigell explores the meaningful yet little-examined connections between religious
heritage, social concerns, and political radicalism in the Jewish American
art world from the time of the Great Migration from Eastern Europe in the
1880s to the beginning of World War II. Focusing on political cartoons published
in left-wing Yiddish- and English-language newspapers and magazines,
Baigell shows how artists commented on current events using biblical and other
Jewish references within a medium of expression that had the widest possible
audience. Set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution, the Depression,
and the rise of fascism during the 1930s, the book examines the work of such
well-known artists as William Gropper and Mark Rothko, and brings to light
the work of lesser-known artists such as Leon Israel and Louis Ribak. Artists’
personal correspondence, newspaper articles, and the writings of art critics all
reveal the intimate connections between Jewish memories, religious customs,
and radical socialist concerns.
View other series books on Judaic Traditions in Literature, Music, and Art.
6 x 9, 280 pages, 61 black-and-white illustrations, glossary, bibliography, index