University of Minnesota
Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies


Arthur Szyk (1894-1951)

Szyk Ink and Blood 1944Arthur Szyk is undoubtedly the best known World War II vintage Polish-Jewish artist in the West. Working for the London-based Polish government in exile, Szyk produced art that was biting and exposed Nazism especially to the American people. His work appeared frequently in magazine advertisements during the war that mocked the Nazi and Japanese leadership and showed especially the plight of the Jews (his image appeared on the cover of Time Magazine, while his work appeared in other American journals such as Esquire, Collier's and in advertisements for U.S. Steel and Coca Cola. Artistically, Szyk’s work can be linked to multiple traditions: first, the intricate detail of Turkish and Persian miniature paintings which are amplified by their high color; secondly, by cartoon art, as his figures and artistic style may be linked to the later success of Art Spiegelman’s MAUS; thirdly, one might also find an attachment to detail found in works of the late Renaissance, such as in the work of Albrecht Durer and Pieter Breugel. Rabbi Irving Greenberg described Szyk as “the artist as witness—against evil, for liberation.” Szyk himself described his work as bridging the artistic and political when he said, "Art is not my aim, it is my means."

Notes on Arthur Szyk by Stephen Feinstein (PDF).