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The Human Touch

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Arthur Szyk is a Polish Jewish artist resident in Paris. He is the greatest living illuminator of manuscript. While he has been quietly at work in his Paris studio his fame has travelled across Europe, the English Channel and the Atlantic Ocean in seven league boot-strides. It is his good fortune to be able to do that one thing superbly that other artists can not, or will not, do. Ten thousand painters may be found either here or abroad who will paint you superb murals on large blank wall spaces Riveras, Serts, Brangwyns, Orozcos, but where will you find painters who will turn into glowing gems of water-color “canvasses” no larger than book pages? You could have found them in Persia in the fifteenth century and in the monasteries of Spain and Italy during the dark ages, but certainly in nothing like the same profusion today. Artists and craftsmen born out of their century may sometimes be the most miserable of men because there is no cry for the things they can, or want to, do, but I think it is to Szyk’s credit and glory that with a supple and delicate wrist, so to speak, he has put the art of manuscript illumination to a modern use.

Beginning today, and for a period of there weeks, there will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum several cases-ful of examples of Szyk’s art. They are being shown under the auspices of the Federation of Polish Jews in America and with the patronage of the Polish government in the person of its Ambassador and the Consul General in New York, Dr. M. J. T. March-lewski, who will be among the speakers at the opening of the exhibition, at two this afternoon. This exhibition comes to us from London and had previously been shown in Cracow, Warsaw, Vienna, Paris, and may possibly continue its tour through this country.

Many artists have received decorations and commissions from governments and many artists have had their works purchased by the most important museums without thereby acquiring importance in the eyes of the knowing. The other day, at the Brooklyn Museum, while the exhibition was being put in order, I had occasion to look at some examples of Szyk’s work and although it is not all on an equally high level, I venture to suggest that, within its scope, it is one of the most beautiful collections of one man’s art and craft that I have ever seen.

But not equally so. There is a set of thirty-four illuminated pages, entitled Washington and His Times, a portfolio of water colors issued for the Washington Bi-Centennial which, I must confess, are admirable only for the amount of detail worked onto one page and for the sheer brilliance of color. It is the series of illuminated pages entitled The Statutes of Kalisz which is the clou—as the art critics say—of the collection. It is a series of forty-five “canvasses” telling the story of Jewry in Poland from the time of Boleslaw the Pious who, in 1264, gave to the Jews what we would call today a statute of minority rights. Many of the items consist of the phrasing of the Statutes in Latin, French, Polish, Hebrew, Jewish, English, German, Italian and Spanish. The last scene of Polish Jewish history depicted

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