Social Concern and Left Politics in Jewish American Art: 1880-1940

Social Concern and Left Politics in Jewish American Art: 1880-1940

by Matthew Baigell


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This book explores the important and barely examined connections between the humanitarian concerns embedded in the religious heritage of Jewish American artists and the appeal of radical political causes between the years of the Great Migration from Eastern Europe in the 1880s and the beginning of World War II in the late 1930s. Visual material consists primarily of political cartoons published in leftwing Yiddish- and English-language newspapers and magazines. Artists often commented on current events using biblical and other Jewish references, meaning that whatever were their political concerns, their Jewish heritage was ever present. By the late 1940s, the obvious ties between political interests and religious concerns largely disappeared. The text, set against events of the times—the Russian Revolution, the Depression and the rise of fascism during the 1930s as well as life on New York's Lower East Side—includes artists' statements as well as the thoughts of religious, literary, and political figures ranging from Marx to Trotsky to newspaper editor Abraham Cahan to contemporary art critics including Meyer Schapiro.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780815633969
Publisher: Syracuse University Press
Publication date: 04/03/2015
Series: Judaic Traditions in Literature, Music, and Art
Pages: 280
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Matthew Baigell is Professor Emeritus of Art History at Rutgers. He received his Ph.D. from University of Pennsylvania in 1965. Recent publications include Jewish Artists in New York: The Holocaust Years and American Artists, Jewish Images. He is also the coeditor (with Milly Heyd) of Complex Identities: Jewish Consciousness and Modern Art .


1. First book-length study of the relationships between religious heritage and political concerns on Jewish American artists from 1880 to 1940.
2. The desire to create visual images based on political concerns usually associated with leftwing influences during the 1930s can be traced back to the 1880s in Yiddish language journals published in America.
3. The tradition of a political art in America was greatly enhanced by Jewish artists and their supporters throughout the early years of the 20h century.
4. The book is written in jargon-free language.

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