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The emancipation of Jews in Europe during the nineteenth century meant that for the first time they could participate in areas of secular life-including established art academies-that had previously been closed to them by legal restrictions. Jewish artists took many complex routes to establish their careers. Some-such as Camille Pissaro-managed to distinguish themselves without making any reference to their Jewish heritage in their art. Others-such as Simeon Solomon and Maurycy Gottlieb-wrestled as well with their identities to produce images of Jewish experience in a predominantly Christian world. The pogroms that began in the late nineteenth century and escalated in the early twentieth savagely brought home to Jews the problematic relationship of minority groups to majority cultures, and artists such as Maurycy Minkowski and Samuel Hirszenberg confronted the horror of the deaths of thousands of Jews in powerful images of destruction and despair. Comprehensively illustrated in color throughout, Confronting Modernity: European Jewish Artists in the Nineteenth Century explores for the first time every aspect of the rôle of Jewish artists within nineteenth-century European art.
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Unprecedented social and political freedom allowed 19th-century European Jews access to countless new experiences, including membership in artists' academies and guilds, and an atmosphere that produced the first generation of great Jewish painters, including Camille Pissarro and Max Liebermann. The Emergence of Jewish Artists in Nineteenth Century Europe, edited by Susan Tumarkin Goodman, curator at the Jewish Museum in New York, considers how this generation of artists used painting to help make sense of their new freedoms. In Western Europe, which offered the greatest possibilities of assimilation, Jewish artists rarely depicted explicitly Jewish cultural or biblical scenes. In Eastern Europe, where Jews were less integrated, painters more often depicted synagogue life and traditional dress. The book's dozens of illustrations testify to this same contrast. And it is impossible to decide which are more beautiful, the more settled, gray compositions by Poles such as Maurycy Minkowski and Samuel Hirszenberg, or the dynamic, colorful scenes made by their German, Austrian, Italian, and British peers. --Michael Joseph GrossAbout the Author:
Susan T. Goodman is Senior Curator-at-Large at The Jewish Museum, New York.
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