"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, 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. Baigell's book is a major contribution to the understanding of an important period in American art as well as to an understanding of the importance of the Jewishness of many prominent American artists."—Donald Kuspit, Professor Emeritus, State University of New York at Stony Brook
"Baigell, an art historian, reflects on the social, religious, and historical reasons that Jews have aligned with left-wing causes both in the United States and abroad. The author then examines greeting cards, posters, photographs, political cartoons, and fine art to show how the artists’ political views are manifested in the topics and esthetics of their work. There are numerous black and white illustrations. Includes artists’ biographies, and a glossary of Yiddish terms, along with bibliographical references and index. Recommended."—AJL Reviews
"A magnificent piece of work and an important contribution—essential, basic reading—for anyone interested in the period from the beginning of the Great Migration to the aftermath of World War II and the place of Jewish artists in shaping and responding to the American world during that era."—H-Judaic Reviews
"Few authors, Baigell notes, have closely examined the impact of religion on Jewish artists, nor have they connected the artists' cultural and religious backgrounds with their radicalism. In this light, Baigell's book can be seen as a corrective to the current literature. Motivated by a decades-old essay by Maurice Hindus that questioned the connections between Jewish radicalism and religious heritage (published in 1927 in the Menorah Journal), Baigell offers numerous clarifications of the complex relationship between religious heritage, social concern, and radical politics."—Studies in Contemporary Jewry
This book explores the important and barely examined connections between the humanitarian concerns embedded in the religious heritage of Jewish American artists and the appeal of radical political causes between the years of the Great Migration from Eastern Europe in the 1880s and the beginning of World War II in the late 1930s. Visual material consists primarily of political cartoons published in leftwing Yiddish- and English-language newspapers and magazines. Artists often commented on current events using biblical and other Jewish references, meaning that whatever were their political concerns, their Jewish heritage was ever present. By the late 1940s, the obvious ties between political interests and religious concerns largely disappeared. The text, set against events of the times–the Russian Revolution, the Depression and the rise of fascism during the 1930s as well as life on New York’s Lower East Side–includes artists’ statements as well as the thoughts of religious, literary, and political figures ranging from Marx to Trotsky to newspaper editor Abraham Cahan to contemporary art critics including Meyer Schapiro.
About the Author
Matthew Baigell is Professor Emeritus of Art History at Rutgers. He received his Ph.D. from University of Pennsylvania in 1965. Recent publications include Jewish Artists in New York: The Holocaust Years and American Artists, Jewish Images. He is also the coeditor (with Milly Heyd) of Complex Identities: Jewish Consciousness and Modern Art .
Series: Judaic Traditions in Literature, Music, and Art
6 x 9, 280 pages, 61 black and white illustrations