Synopses & Reviews
In the twentieth century, the avant-garde movements promoted abstraction and formal experimentation in the visual arts, often dispensing with the human form altogether. Yet many artists of Jewish descent resisted this trend and continued to depict the human figure with sympathy and understanding. Few of them portrayed overtly Jewish themes, butGÇöas Eliane Strosberg argues in this thought-provoking volumeGÇötheir persistent devotion to the human figure was itself a reflection of their Jewishness. Though their individual styles were diverse, they all used the human figure as a means of communicating, in secular terms, aspects of their Jewish intellectual heritage, such as their humanistic values, passion for social justice, and opposition to the nihilism that underlay so much of modern culture. For this reason, their work may be said to constitute an ethical, if not an aesthetic, art movement, which Strosberg aptly dubs GÇ£Human Expressionism.GÇ¥Strosberg begins her highly readable text with an overview of Jewish tradition that illuminates the mindset of many Jewish artists. She also provides a concise history of Jewish art from Genesis to the Enlightenment, in which she demonstrates that figurative art has actually had a place in Judaism for thousands of years, despite the Second CommandmentGÇÖs prohibition of graven images. However, Strosberg devotes the greater part of her study to a comparative analysis of those artists who fall under the rubric of Human Expressionism. Though her scope is impressively broad, ranging from Camille Pissarro to George Segal, she pays particular attention to the immigrant painters of the +ëcole de Paris, like Soutine and Modigliani; the American social realists, like Ben Shahn and Raphael Soyer; and the masters of the postwar School of London, like Lucian Freud and R. B. Kitaj.Illustrated with more than one hundred full-color reproductions of works by the artists under discussion, The Human Figure and Jewish Culture is an essential addition to any library of art history or Judaica.
About the Author
Eliane Strosberg, who holds an M.D. and a Ph.D. from the Université Libre de Bruxelles, enjoyed a successful career as an international management consultant. She has also worked in the research laboratory of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and was cofounder of the cultural organization Rencontres Art et Science. Her book Art and Science
(Abbeville), produced in cooperation with UNESCO, was translated into several languages.
Julia Weiner, a curator and art critic based in London, has served as head of education at the Courtauld Institute and as a consultant to the Victoria and Albert Museum.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Julia Weiner
1. The Jewish Experience
2. The Human Figure Before the Enlightenment
3. Human Expressionism in the Early Twentieth Century
4. The Human Figure after the Holocaust
Artist Biographies and Bibliographies
Maps of the Pale of Settlement