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August 30, 1968 - Image 11

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1968-08-30

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Is There a 'Jewish Art?'

(Editors Note: Dr. Werner is the
author of many books on art, his
most recent being "Modigliani.")

So much confusion still surrounds
the two-word combinations, "Jew-
ish artists" and "Jewish art," that
some attempt must be made to de-
fine their limits. Unfortunately,
these terms are thrown about care-
lessly, not only in informal talk
but even in serious lectures and
in periodicals a notch or two above
the popular press.
Before Hitler's advent to power,
responsible scholars were reluc-
tant to apply the term, Juedische
Kunst, art Juif, Jewish art, to any-
thing but the ritual objects of the
synagogue, or those associated
with religious worship in the home.
Also; in use—quite legitimately—
was "Jewish folk art," standing
for various items of decOrative_ ap-
plied art of the European Juden-
gasse, the North African mellah,
the Jewish sections in West Asia-
tic towns.
But in 1929, there appeared
"Die Juedische Kunst," by Ernst
Cohh-Wierner, who persisted in
firiding a mystical "Jewish"
quality in works in which noth-
ing specifically Jewish can be
demonstrated. The illustrations
include Camille Pissarro's "Tui-
Beries Garden," Max Lieber-
mann's "Woman with Coats" and
Erich Mendelsohn's "Einstein
Tower" — they belong to West-
ern art!
It is one thing to include the
West Indian-born Sephardi, Pis-
sarro, in a Jewish Encyclopedia
which, after all, lists everyone of
. Jewish origin; whether or not he
had any spiritual links with Ju-
daism. (This artist, a leader of
the French school of Impressionist
landscape painters, was a socialist-
anarchist, who regarded himself a
citizen of the world, and acknowl-
edged no particular religious, ra-
cial, or national ties.)
It is quite another thing to con-
coct a "Jewish are' by lumping
together men and women of Jew-
ish descent with the underlying
idea that every individual :born of
Jewish parents was bound, in some
mysterious, inexplicable way, to
the Jewish spirit, to a Jewish man-
ner of seeing, feeling, and finally
fashioning the world around him,
even if this individual was com-
pletely alienated from Judaism.
Prior to the 1860s, there were no
, "Jewish artists" of significance.
Jewish religious art, on the other
hand, can be traced back, with
certainty, to the period when the
Israelites built their Tabernacle in
the wilderness — a work known
to us solely from the elaborate de-
scriptions in the Bible.
While Judaism has made, and
continues to make, highly impor-
tant contributions to man's mor-
al spiritual a n d intellectual
growth, it is not necessarily the
essential or, at least, dominant,
element in an individual Jew's
Attempts have been made by
critics to claim the Lithuanian,
-Chaim Soutine, • for "Jewish art"
on the basis of the violent distor-
tions, the lava-like, riotous color
he used in his pictures, largely
portraits of simple folk, French
landscapes and still lifes. But does
not Oskar Kokoschka, the Austri-
an Catholic, reveal similar fea-
tures? The explanation is simple:
the two belong to the same gener-
ation, and to the Expressionist
Opponents of my viewpoint are
likely to point, triumphantly, to
Marc Chagall, who recently turned
80. Yet, contrary to popular belief,
neither Chagall's subject. matter
nor the source of his art is 100
per cent Jewish.
Undoubtedly he, more than any
other artist I can think of, has
( drawn' nourishment froth the —
now vanished -L.-. cultural life of
( White Russian Jewry, especially
his native town of Vitebsk. But he
also was deeply indebted to Slavik
folk art and, subsequently, to the
inspiration he received from mod-
em French art, notably the post-
If subject matter alone would


Friday, August 30, 1968

make an artist "Jewish," then
Rembrandt, who so often paint-
ed the Sephardim and Ashkena-
zim he met, and even befriended,
in Amsterdam, would be more of
a Jewish artist than a Pissarro
or a Modigliani or a Soutine.
Even Israeli art is not entirely,
and not necessarily, "Jewish art."
It began about 1906 when Prof.
Boris Schatz, himself a minor
sculptor, founded t h e Bezalel
School. In its first 20 and even 30
years, it was predominantly a re-
gional art, inspired by the exciting
and exotic vistas that lay before
the astonished eyes of the pioneers.
. But as art matured in the Holy
Land, it, stopped imitating the
French landscapists of the pre-
World War I period, and began
to discover the new abstract

trends, characterized by such
names as Vasily Kandinsky and
Piet Mondrian. Today, four-fifths
of current Israeli art is abstract.
So is, for that matter, American
art. American Jewish artists are
among the boldest of bold experi-
menters and, however deeply they
may be touched by photographs of
the Auschwitz crematoria, or, more
recently, elated by Israel's deter-
mination and heroism, their works,
largely non-representational, are
complicated searches into the self
rather than communications with
the viewer in the narrative man-.
ner of Sunday school book illus-


Denver Hospital Gets, Grant for Asthma Study

NEW YORK (JTA) — A three-
year grant of $141,740 will enable
the National Jewish Hospital and
Research Center in Denver to con-
tinue research on an improved
method to diagnose asthma. The

New Building for LA
Rehabilitation Workshop

craft Industries, a rehabilitation
workshop operated by the Jewish
Vocational Service here, has pur-
chased a $200,000 building contain-
ing twice as much space as the
present workshop to make possible
The ballot is stronger than the scheduled expansion and new pro-

award extends the studies which
were started in 1965 with an :ini-
tial $89,947 grant from the John A,
Hartford Foundation. Using a tech-
nique developed at the Denver -hos-
pital, investigators can measure
bronchial sensitivity to dust and
pollens sprayed into breathing air.
The test meets some objections to
the standard skin test for diagnos-
ing asthma, hospital officials said.


D. S. A • 42 PROOF




So nobody ever sees your

You've got a beautiful car, right? Everybody sees it, right? And
you wouldn't drive a clunker, right? So how about your office?
It's all wrong, right? Don't people see your office? Is it the way
you want them to see you? Of course not. That's why you
should ask the Silver's design staff what a 1969 office would
look like. Ask them about styles, colors, accessories, etc. It all
might be less than you think. Especialljt since there's no extra
charge for white walls.



(Copyright 1968, JTA Inc.)



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