One of my favorite books as a child was this volume of Andersen's Fairy Tales with illustrations by Arthur Szyk. I love the stories of Hans Christian Andersen and was intrigued Szyk's eerie illustrations. I recently learned that his art was not confined to illustrating children's books. He's famous for anti-Axis political illustrations during WWII as well as illustrations on Jewish religious subjects in the style of illuminated manuscripts.
When I heard there was an exhibit of Szyk's work at The Palace of Legion of Honor, I jumped at the opportunity to see it. Last Saturday, not only did we see the exhibit, we were able to join a tour given by a local rabbi who owns the largest collection of works by Szyk in the world and is a foremost expert on Szyk's work (who knew?!?)
I cannot begin to describe how beautiful & complex Szyk's illustrations are. I could try but would not do justice to the topic. Suffice to say, Szyk was passionate about unmasking social injustice; many of his illustrations speak directly of atrocities which occurred during WWII, and the manner in which he spoke out against unnecessary human suffering still holds current relevance.
And, exciting news: A new publication of Szyk's Haggadah will be available in April. Szyk created these Haggadah illustrations in Poland during the time of Hitler's rise to power. Through his illustrations, he drew parallels between the Nazis and the ancient Egyptians of the book of Exodus. Not only will this be a usable Haggadah, it will also contain information and commentary explaining Passover traditions.
Something to look forward to in April... and meanwhile, if you happen to be in San Francisco, the exhibit is at the Palace of Legion of Honor until March 27th. It's worth a visit...