Taube Family Arthur Szyk Collection
Acquired by The Magnes in 2017, the Taube Family Arthur Szyk Collection includes the extensive body of work of Arthur Szyk, a Polish Jewish artist and political caricaturist whose subjects span some of the most profound events of the 20th century.
Born into a middle-class Polish Jewish family in 1894, Szyk lived a life framed by two world wars, the rise of totalitarianism in Europe, and the birth of the State of Israel, before his death in 1951. Much of his work centered around these historical experiences. Szyk was raised in Poland, educated in France, traveled to the Middle East and North Africa, and lived in London and Canada before moving to New York in 1940 and ultimately settling in the United States.
The collection represents a range of Szyk’s artistic activities, including many of his most valuable works. They include 450 artworks, comprising paintings, drawings, and sketches from across the artist’s lifespan. Accompanying Szyk’s artwork in the collection is a wealth of documents, including books, newspapers, magazines, and other publications that featured the artist’s work.
Szyk used motifs drawn from the Bible, history, politics, and culture to pair extraordinary craftsmanship with insightful commentary on a diverse range of subjects including Judaism, the founding of the State of Israel, the American War of Independence, World War II, and the Holocaust.
While much of Szyk’s art is stylistically reminiscent of medieval and Renaissance traditions, many of his works reflect the social and political unease that gripped the world during his lifetime. A harsh critic of Hitler and Nazi totalitarianism, a number of his most famous pieces portray what Szyk called the “madness” of his times.
“The elevation of Szyk’s diverse, intricate portrayals of European, American and Jewish history, and anti-Nazi political propaganda, in the superb academic setting of UC Berkeley provides an ideal venue for Szyk’s monumental collection.”
This acquisition was made possible by a $10.1 million grant from Taube Philanthropies, the largest single monetary gift to acquire art in the history of the University of California, Berkeley, providing students, scholars, and the public access to the most significant collection of works by Arthur Szyk.