The Art and Politics of Arthur Szyk

Artist Arthur Szyk (1894–1951) earned an international reputation during his lifetime for his richly detailed illustrations and illuminations of Jewish themes. Szyk was a skillful caricaturist and a passionate crusader for political causes. From his early childhood in the Polish city of Lodz until his death in New Canaan, Connecticut, he drew inspiration from the history of his people. Szyk found strength in biblical stories of Jewish bravery and martyrdom, and in more modern examples of courage.

During World War II, Szyk (pronounced “Shick”) devoted his energies to defeating Nazi Germany and its allies and calling the world’s attention to the mass murder of Europe’s Jews.

We Will Never Die, program cover, 1943

His incisive wartime cartoons and caricatures filled the pages of American newspapers and magazines, earning him a reputation as a “one-man army” in the Allied cause. His moving portrayals of Jewish suffering and heroism bespoke a political activism that demanded “action—not pity.”

By 1943, Arthur Szyk had become perhaps America’s leading artistic advocate for Jewish rescue from Nazi Europe. His images appeared in leading magazines and newspapers such as Collier’s, Esquire, Time, Look, Liberty, the New York Post, and the Chicago Sun. During the darkest periods of the war, Szyk’s images reached millions of Americans, helping to boost morale by unmasking the threat that Nazism posed to Western civilization.

Ink and Blood by Arthur Szyk, 1944