Eccentricities of the Famous Are Discussed by Elias Grossman, Who Has Etched Them
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Eccentricities of the Famous Are Discussed by Elias Grossman, Who Has Etched Them

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Mussolini, the strong silent man who really isn’t dictatorial at all–

Chaim Bialik, the sage of modern Palestine, who gets as excited as a child about each little thing he happens to discuss–

Gandhi, sitting at his spinning wheel and making witty remarks to newspapermen–

Einstein, who could only converse in Italian–

Tagore, who didn’t want to live in America because it was too expensive for him–

Governor Ritchie of Maryland and Mayor Dizengoff of Tel Aviv, President Robinson of City College and Dr. York-Steiner, who was secretary to Theodor Herzl–

These are the men of whom Elias Grossman can speak, whose intimate eccentricities he had the opportunity to note and, perhaps, to transcribe on copper.

For Elias Grossman has made etchings of these men, as well as of many others. Some of his work is now on exhibition at the Jewish Club, on the roof of the Park Royal Hotel, 23 West Seventy-third street. The exhibition, which opened a little over a week ago, will continue until March 25.

Yesterday, in the large room of the club, its walls covered with his etchings, Grossman related anecdotes about some of his models.


There was, for instance, the old, bent beggar in the little town in Poland, whom Grossman paid fifteen cents a day for posing. After one day the beggar returned with fifteen of his comrades.

“What’s this?” asked Grossman.

“More models for you,” the beggar replied. “You give me the same fifteen cents, and look, you’ll have more models to work on.”

“And who’s going to pay them?” the artist asked.

The answer was simple. From the same fifteen cents, they would get five cents to divide among themselves, while the first beggar would keep the ten cents extra each day. Grossman smiled as he described this budding capitalist in the little Polish village.

Then he spoke of Mussolini.

“It was easier to get to Mussolini than to approach my beggar,” he said. “I had done an etching of the American Ambassador at Rome, Mr. Henry P. Fletcher, which Mussolini saw. He immediately expressed a desire to meet me. You see, he liked American artists because he liked our Ambassador. I spent forty hours with Mussolini, working from five to seven each afternoon for twenty days.


“One afternoon, he showed me a violin someone had given him as a gift. He offered to play for me. He played ‘Ave Maria,’ by Schubert. It was very beautiful.

“Never at any time did he give me the least impression of what most people think dictators are like. Rather, he seemed child-like in his desire to show off all his possessions, and human in his relations with his subordinates.”

Grossman etched Chaim Bialik four months ago in Tel Aviv. “Bialik loves to pose,” he said. “There are very many portraits of him, but few good ones, because all the artists try to flatter him.

“During his conversation, Bialik gets as enthusiastic about little things as a child with a new toy. He read his poetry to me, declaiming with wild abandon. He always kept me longer than we had arranged for.”

Grossman described holy difficult it was for him to reach Gandhi. Only when he had heard that the artist had made etchings of Mussolini, Einstein and especially Tagore, did Gandhi agree to sit for him. He would sit on the floor, and Grossman would work lying flat on his stomach. Monday was the day of silence, and the only way in which the two men could communicate with one another was by passing notes.


“You kept those notes, of course?” he was asked.

Grossman smiled.

“No,” he replied, “I didn’t realize their value at the time. I was more interested in making a good etching than in gathering collectors’ items.”

“Gandhi was very witty,” Grossman continued. “Later, when Jo Davidson came to model him, he said to me, ‘You see, Mr. Grossman, not only am I being made on copper, but I’m also going to be made of mud!’ Before, after and during his meals, Gandhi prayed like a pious Jew.”

It was in Vienna that Grossman etched Rabindranath Tagore. “He was the nicest model I had ever had until that time,” Grossman declared. “Even if I would have met him in ragged clothes, I would still be sure he was a poet. We discussed literature and art, and he expressed the opinion that America is growing too rapidly. He said he thought it was too expensive to live in America.”


Einstein was the next personality for Grossman to take up. The etcher began to speak of his difficulty in getting to the Professor, of his difficulty in taking with him after he did get to him–since Einstein speaks little English, and Grossman no German. They compromised with Italian.

And then Grossman looked hurriedly at his watch, snatched his coat, hat and briefcase-full of sketches, muttered something about an appointment, and dashed away.

So any interesting sidelights on Professor Einstein that Grossitan may have noted must go unheralded until posterity, or the next interviewer, reminds the artist of his duty to tell it to the world.


The Joint Consultative Council should be the medium through which the principle and practice of a united front in American Jewry can be extended, Rabbi Louis I. Newman asserted in an address before the Jewish Fellowship at the Hotel McAlpin yesterday afternoon.

“It would be folly to ignore the existence of the instrument of joint action on the part of the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress and the B’nal B’rith,” Dr. Newman said. “If deemed advisable,” he added, “it may be wise to increase the scope and membership of the Joint Council to include representatives of other major Jewish organizations in the field of the defense of Jewish rights.”

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