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 Arthur Szyk  (1894 - 1951)

About: Arthur Szyk


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Lived/Active: Connecticut / Poland      Known for: illustrator-illuminator, cartoons

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BIOGRAPHY for Arthur Szyk
1894 (Lodz, Poland)

Connecticut / Poland


Often Known For
illustrator-illuminator, cartoons

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Arthur Szyk (b. 1894 / d. 1951)

Arthur Szyk was born in Lódz, Poland to a Jewish family on June 16, 1894.  During this time Lodz was under Russian rule.

Sent to Paris, France in 1909, by his father, Szyk studied at Académie Julian. Despite being exposed to modern art/artist, Szyk kept his works in traditional ways.  During 1912 and 1914 the teenage artist produced numerous political themed drawings and caricatures that were published in the Lódz satirical magazine Smiech.

Returning back to Poland in 1913, Szyk continued his studies at Jan Matejko Academy of Fine Arts in Kraków (under Austrian rule at that time).  At the beginning of 1914, Szyk and a group and other Polish-Jewish artists and writers organized by the Jewish Cultural Society Hazamir set off on a journey to Palestine.  Unfortunately, the journey was cut short that same year by the outbreak of World War I.  In late 1914, he was conscripted to the Russian army.  Szyk managed to escape the army and returned to his home town.

Szyk married Julia Liekerman on September 14, 1916. The following year the couple’s son George was born.  Poland regained independence in 1918 and Skyz began to combining his political engagement with his artistic activities.  After the German Revolution, Szyk was the illustrator of the book Revolution in Germany

From 1921 to 1937, Szyk and his family lived in Paris.  Arthur and Julia’s daughter Alexandra was born in 1922.  He illustrated five more books by 1925.  In 1931 he was invited to the seat of the League of Nations in Geneva where he was asked to illustrate the statute of the League.
Szyk had his last big presentation of works before the outbreak of the war presentation at the 1939 New York World's Fair, which was opened in April 1939.  Americans first knew Szyk from his illuminated manuscripts and political caricatures that appeared on the covers of their most popular magazines during the Second World War: Time, Esquire, Collier's and advertisements for U.S. Steel and Coca Cola. During WWII, Adolph Hitler put a price tag on Arthur Szyk's head. This is part of why the American press called Szyk a "one-man army against fascism."

After he moved to America but before it had entered the war, Szyk produced the album The New Order.  In 1945, Szyk and his family moved from New York to New Canaan, Connecticut.  He began illustrating for books such as The Canterbury Tales.  He was also commissioned to illustrate the United Nations Series of stamps.

On September 13, 1951, Szyk died in New Canaan of a heart attack.

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