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April 08, 1977 - Image 48

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1977-04-08

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48 Friday, April 8, 1977


Biography of Ephraim Lilien, Artist and Zionist

Ephraim Moses Lilien
(1874-1925) is a name so in-
delibly linked with Zionist
history, so markedly imH
pressive as a great Jewish
artist, that the reproduction
of some of his works is an
event of importance for lit-
erary and art lovers.
Because the 36 artistic
creations of Jerusalem and
the Holy City's patriarchal
settlers of some 75 years •
ago appears in a volume
dedicated to Lilien and are
accompanied by an author-



itative essay about the art-
ist and his art, the new
book also rates acclaim as
an addendum to art liter-
"Jerusalem by Ephraim
Moses Lilien," published by
Ktav, is a large book, pre-
senting the 36 reproductions
from the Lilien Jerusalem
collection, and an essay,
"Ephraim Moses Lilien: Zi-
onist and Artist" by Dr. Jo-
seph Gutmann.
The pictorial section itself
is extraordinary.

Scenes of Jerusalem in
many fashions, the Western
Wall—the Kotel Maaravi,
the scholars and patriarchs,
the Scribes, the charming
women, the festival celebra-
tions, the Hills of Judah.

This album of etchings,

artistically portrayed in the
era of Ottoman rule, provid-
es an historic note, perpetu-
ating the views and the
people of a generation re-
mote from the one of liber-
ated Israel.
To each of the Lilien etch-
ings and art works in this
volume is appended the
Hebrew caption he had him-
self assigned to his work.
The eminent authority on
art and art literature, Prof.
Joseph Gutmann, the editor
of this volume and the au-
thor of the very illuminat-
ing essay on Lilien as artist
and Zionist, included in his
biographical data about the
artist the friendship that de-
veloped between Lilien and
Theodore Herzl. The impres-
sive Gutmann account adds
a valuable chapter to Zion-
ist history. In a tribute to
Lilien, Dr. Gutmann as-

"With an established repu-
tation, but still little money,
Lilien associated himself
with an artistic circle
known as Die Kommenden
(The Futurists). In this
circle he met Stefan Zweig
and Borries Freiherr von
Munchhausen. The friend-
ship with the latter led to
an unusual collaboration be-
tween a Prussian Junker
and a Galician Jew and re-
sulted in Lilien's designing
and illustrating Juda, Mun-
ch.hausen's book of ballads
on Old Testament themes.
"The success of the book
was phenomenal. It was
translated into many lan-
guages, and letters praising
it poured in from all over
the world—even from The-
odor Herzl and the chief
rabbi of Roumania. The
baron held Lilien in the
highest esteem.
"Ironically, the baron lat-
er became an ardent Nazi,
"No master, innovator, or a vile anti-Semite, and a
pathfinder, Lilien was com- defamer of Heinrich Heine.
pletely a child of his time. The title page of Juda has
He had much in common an eight-branched lamps-
with Heril, the founder of tand in the center. It is
Zionism, whom he admired. placed before the closed
Herzl's short stories echo Ark enshrining the Torah
the realistic style of the scrolls.
French author Guy de Mau-
"The parokhet (Torah cur-
tain) contains an in-
"Similarly, his life style scription: 'Ephraim Moses
in formal dress, including ben Jacob ha-Cohen Lilien
top-hat, walking stick, and of the faithful sons of Zion.'
gloves, was well suited to A border of intertwined
the elegant Victorian draw- lilies and winged figures
ing room, but not to the frames the page. Years
harsh life of the frontier later Alfred Werner (Herzl
like Jewish settlements of Year Book) commented:
the `Altneuland.' The roman-
`Today, looking at the pic-
tic, escapist art of Lilien's tures and reading the
Jugendstil was at home in stanzas with detachment,
the fin-de-siecle 19th-Cen- we can no longer feel the
tury European world, but enthusiasm which over-
was an inadequate expres- whelmed the Zionists of
sion of the rugged idealism 1900 upon being Confronted
of Zionism.
with a work that so proudly
"Although Lilien achieved flaunted Jewishness: the
no great heights as an art- poems have a hollow ring
ist, he deserves to be re- of rhetoric and even
membered for helping to bathos, and the designs
make Jews conscious of the seem to make an all too na-
fact that art has a rightful ive use of cliches.'
place in Judaism and Zion-
"Juda called Lilien's tal-
ism. He was a pioneer in
redesigning the Hebrew let-
ter, frequently signing his
own name on his, works in
"He was a dedicated and
&dent Jew who strove to in-
corporate Jewish elements
into his work and to find an
adequate pictorial expres-
sion for the dreams, his-
tory, and experiences of his
people. He was, above all,
the first noted artist to par-
ticipate actively in the Zion-
ist movement." _

ent to the attention of the Zi-
onists. Around him gath-
ered such devoted Zionists
as Martin Buber and Ber-
thold Feiwel. Zionism to
them was not just a politi-
cal idea, and they hoped to
foster Jewish talent so that
it could also become a cul-
tural ideal.

"With this in mind, Li-
lien, in 1901, organized the
first art show at the Fifth
Zionist Congress in Basel.
Lilien's works were promi-
nently displayed, along with
those of now largely forgot-
ten artists.
"Lilien also designed a
souvenir drawing for this
Congress which depicted a
bearded old Jew, no doubt
symbolic of the Ghetto Jew,
huddled in a corner. Above
him stands a male, winged
angel pointing toward the
future—a Jewish farmer
diligently plowing the land
at sunrise. The Hebrew *in-
scription underneath reads:
`Let our eyes behold visions
in returning to Zion in
"On the occasion of this
Fifth Congress, Martin
Buber hailed Lilien as a
most loyal and conscious Zi-

"Theodor Herzl was at
first very much taken by Li-
lien, whom he fondly ad-
dressed in several letters
as "Lilien auf dem Felde"
("A Lily of the Field"). Li-
lien reciprocated in the de-
sign for a stained-glass win-
dow for the Bnai Brith
Lodge in Hamburg by giv-
ing Moses the features of

"In a drawing entitled
`The Creation of the Poet'
(from Morris Rosenfeld's
Songs of the Ghetto), a
nude, bearded figure with
lyre, preceded by winged
angels, also resembles
Herzl, as do several draw-
ings in Lilien's illustrations
to the Bible.
"Even so, the relation-
ship with Herzl was not

always a friendly one. Com-
missioned to do the designs
for the Golden Book of the
Jewish National Fund in
1903, Lilien proved dilatory
and Herzl took him sharply
to task.
"Though personal and po-
litical differences ulti
mately led to Lilien's rup-
ture with the Zionist move-
ment, he did take an active
part in three Zionist con-
gresses—the Fifth, Sixth,
and Seventh. It was at the
Seventh Congress, in 1905,
that he served, along with
sculptor Boris Schatz, Prof.
Otto Warburg, Franz Oppen-
heimer, and Hirsch Hil-
desheimer, on the com-
mittee to establish the Beza-
lel School of Arts and
Crafts in Jerusalem
(named after the desert art-
ist of the biblical Taber-

"To help the project get
under way, he traveled to
Jerusalem in 1906 and
taught at the Bezalel School
for eight months. That
same year he married
Helene Magnus, also an art-
ist, and settled permanently
in Braunschweig.

"In 1902 Lilien had trav-
eled to Russia to discuss
with Maxim Gorki, the fore-
most Russian writer, the il-
lustrations for Sbomik,' a
projected anthology of Jew-
ish poetry in Russian trans-
lation. The plan never ma-
terialized and only three
drawings remain.
"One, dedicated to. the
`Martyrs of Kishinev' (the
1903 Easter pograrh when
45 Jews were killed and an
untold amount of property
was destroyed), shows a fet-
tered old Jew, wrapped in a
tallit and engulfed by
flames, who is being kissed
by an angel holding a
Torah scroll—symbolic of
Jewish faith and tradition.
"The same year of 1902,
Lilien, together with Martin

Rail Bridge Spans Desert Gap


While the Lilien "Jerusa-
lem" album is the main
theme of this large and
beautifully illustrated vol-
ume, the Gutmann article
is a Zionist and historical
gem. It is historically re-
vealing. It relate's facts
little known, nearly forgot-
ten, yet fascinating in their
descriptions of the human
interests inherent in a con-
flict between Lilien and
Herzl. Therefore, this por-
tion of the Gutmann essay
is eminently worthy of Zion-
ist attention and a large
Jewish readership:

The biggest bridge in the Israel Railways system, on the line between Zin and
Oron in the Arava region of the Negev, has been completed. The bridge, 700 feet long
and 90-120 feet high, is part of an 18-mile stretch of rail due to be completed by the end
of the year.

Buber, Davis Trietsch, and
Berthold Feiwel, founded
the publishing house Judis-
cher Verlag in Berlin. Its
purpose was to be non-par-
tisan, to establish a unity—
the unity of creativity with-
in a living Judaism, 'a cen-
ter for the promotion of
Jewish culture and encour-
agement of art and cul-
"Lilien served as the

firm's illustrator as well as
its editor and manager. In


1902 Judischer Verlag pub-
lished Judischer Atmanach,
and in 1903 an anthology, Ju-
dische Kunstler, edited by
Martin Buber. The artists
discussed were Jozef Is-
raels, Lesser Ury, Max Lie-
bermann, Solomon J. Solo-
mon, Jehudo Epstein, and,
of course, Lilien.

"In 1902 Lilien illustrated
Songs of the Ghetto by
Morris Rosenfeld (trans-
lated from Yiddish by Ber-
thold Feiwel), which proved
so popular that it went into
six editions. These poems
of poverty, exploitation,
and ceaseless toil appealed
to Lilien because they re-
called his own childhood ex-
periences. The weary but
proud image of his father is
portrayed as the Jewish
toiler in the opening pages
of the book.
" 'Tears of Iron' shows,
through a huge cobweb, a
haggard worker ironing a
piece of cloth in an East
Side sweatshop. A large
ugly spider sucks the life
blood from a bee caught in
its net—symbolic of capital-
ist exploitation. Another
popular scene, entitled
`Storm,' depicts two dis-
consolate old Jews on the
deck of an immigrant ship,
staring helplessly ahead as
the storm rages about
them. In the rigging of them
ship sits the waiting figur
of Death.
"Lilien's more than 50 Ex
Libris designs for famous
personalities, such as Ste-
fan Zweig, Martin Buber,
Mordechai Brainin, and
Maxim Gorki, deserve men-
tion. His last major under-
taking was to have been an
eight-to ten-volume work on
the Bible for the Braunsch-
weig publisher Georg West-
ermann. Three illustrated
volumes appeared between
1908 and 1912; the rest were
never completed."

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