Levy characterized Jewish Family Scenes (1908), perhaps his most complete collection of his caricatures of Alsatian Jews, as “a work of faith and memory, executed as an inspiration. It is a tribute by a child of Alsace to simple manners and to the rustic customs that are scattered and disappearing.”
Though the upper-class Jews of Paris refused to recognize his work, he remained determined to bear witness to the lives of the Jewish people. He ultimately did meet with great success, as he exhibited regularly in the Salon de Paris beginning in 1874; was awarded a medal for lithography at the Universal Exhibition (1900); was appointed an associate member of the Salon of the National Fine Arts; and the prestigious Luxembourg Museum in Paris purchased and exhibited his work.
Exhibited here are representative examples of Levy’s style – two beautiful Sukkot cards, each depicting an elderly Jew in tallit and top hat. In the first, the Jew is holding a lulav in his hand and in the second he is admiring his etrog.
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Herman Struck (1876-1944) is considered one of the most important print artists of Germany and Eretz Israel in the first half of the 20th century. His favorite artistic technique was copper etching and its related processes, although he also was a master of the lithograph, and his artistic legacy originates from his love of the print medium as well as from his landscape and portrait drawings.
In Die Kunst des Radierens (“The Art of Etching,” 1908), which became a seminal work on etching, he presented his broad knowledge of etching techniques, which he passed on to his students, including Marc Chagall, and (after moving to Eretz Yisrael) Anna Ticho and Nahum Gutman. While he will always remain renowned for his etching, Struck later turned to the use of color to represent the stark beauty of the Middle East and to better reflect the ever-changing nuances of light in the landscapes of Eretz Yisrael.
Struck, who was born into an Orthodox Berlin family and remained an observant Jew throughout his life, often signed his early works with his Hebrew name, Chaim Aaron ben David, accompanied by a Star of David. Upon completing his studies at the Berlin Academy in1899, he was banned from teaching there because he was Jewish.
After joining the Zionist movement at an early age, he visited Eretz Yisrael in 1903 and upon his return to Germany stopped in Vienna where he had a fateful meeting with Herzl, a meeting that inspired his portrait etching of the Zionist leader that quickly became the most popular, and most copied, image of Herzl.
Struck became a fervent Zionist, Jewish activist, and founder of the Mizrachi Religious Zionist party. As the artistic soul of the early Zionist movement, he attended several Zionist Congress annual confabs and his art was displayed at the Fifth Congress.
At the same time, Struck was a German patriot who volunteered for military service in World War I, during which he worked as a translator, liaison officer, and military artist and was awarded the Iron Cross. While serving with the German army he came into contact with East European Jews for the first time and became deeply impressed with their way of life.
He sketched everything he saw relating to the life of the Jews of Galicia and Lithuania, which he later turned into The Face of East European Jewry (1920), a book of his drawings with text by Arnold Zweig. Exhibited here is a beautiful portrait by Struck from that book, depicting an East European Jew shaking the lulav with intense concentration. He originally signed this print in pencil for purposes of reselling it, as he was facing significant financial problems.
After making aliyah and settling in Haifa in 1923, Struck taught at the Bezalel Academy; participated in a number of important exhibits; and became a founder of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. His greatest wish was for artists to come to Eretz Yisrael to paint the beauty of the land and its people. When many took up his call, he became instrumental in training a new generation of young Jewish artists in a new Jewish iconography and Jewish crafts.