STRIKING ORIGINAL PAINTING, “WAR ORPHANS” BY ARTHUR SZYK
SZYK, Arthur. “War Orphans.” London: 1940. Original signed watercolor and gouache painting on paper (image 9-1/2 by 10-1/2 inches, sheet measures 12 by 16 inches); very handsomely framed (18 by 20 inches). $18,500.
Extraordinary signed original watercolor and gouache painting of two young Jewish refugees, huddled together, by anti-Nazi caricaturist Arthur Szyk, whose wartime portrayals of brutality, heroism and suffering strongly influenced American attitudes toward the war effort.
Polish-born Arthur Szyk considered his work to be “weapons of war.” Upon the German invasion of Poland in 1939, his life and career were altered forever. Syzk lived in London at the time, and, in an effort to sway American public opinion against the Nazis, British authorities dispatched him to New York City. There he was to assume the role of unofficial propagandist for the Allied powers, contributing a steady stream of anti-Nazi cartoons and caricatures for major U.S. publications, including Time, Collier’s, Esquire, The New York Times, the New York Post (where he eventually served as editorial cartoonist) and the Chicago Sun. For this mission, Szyk developed a new and different approach from his established style of “illumination,” creating caricatures that combined the precise detail and fine craftsmanship of his miniaturist illustrations with the barbed satire of political commentary. A survey conducted in 1941 by Esquire magazine proclaimed that Szyk’s political cartoons were more popular with American military trainees than photos of pin-up girls. His drawings were used to promote U.S. war bonds, and were credited with boosting more sales than any other vehicle. In his wartime work, Syzk focused primarily on three major themes: the brutality of the Germans, the heroism of the Poles, and the suffering of the Jews. These themes were present in his 1940 exhibition, “War and ‘Kultur’ in Poland,” which opened in London, and later in Toronto and New York. This striking original watercolor and gouache painting of “War Orphans,” signed by Szyk and dated “London, 1940,” was apparently among the images in that exhibition. According to the exhibit catalogue, Szyk’s series of paintings and drawings portrayed Poland in a state of “distress and fury.” Many of the works in the show attacked Nazi leaders and later appeared in his The New Order (1941). “Szyk’s extraordinary virtuosity has not, however, been impaired by the tragedy of his country and his religion, and those who care for exotic coloring combined with the medieval miniaturist’s precision of detail could not but be interested in his work” (Thomas MacGreevy).
Fine condition. A beautiful piece.