The University of California, Berkeley has announced a $10.1 million gift from San Francisco-based Taube Philanthropies to acquire works by artist and political caricaturist Arthur Szyk for its Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life.
The gift will enable the university to purchase the Szyk collection from a private owner, providing students, scholars, and the public with access to the most significant collection of works by Szyk, a Polish Jewish artist who used motifs drawn from the Bible, history, politics, and culture to comment on a diverse range of subjects, including Judaism, the founding of the State of Israel, the American War of Independence, World War II, and the Holocaust. Born into a middle-class Polish Jewish family in 1894, Szyk was raised in Poland, educated in France, traveled to the Middle East and North Africa, and lived in London and Canada before moving to New York in 1940, where he met the Taube family.
The newly acquired collection captures a wide range of Szyk's artistic output, including four hundred and fifty paintings, drawings, and sketches covering the entirety of his professional life, as well as a selection of books, newspapers, and magazines that featured his work.
The gift from Taube Philanthropies builds on its support for the university's efforts to make exemplary Jewish art and culture accessible to wider audiences. The Magnes — which boasts the third-largest Jewish museum collection in the U.S., and the only one of its size in a research university — is particularly well suited to showcase Szyk's work.
"Arthur Szyk operated simultaneously in many countries, cultures, and languages, and he was a refugee for a good part of his life," said Magnes Collection curator Francesco Spagnolo. "The Magnes is committed to exploring and documenting the cultures of Jews in the global diaspora, and this collection furthers that goal. Our curatorial task — and the academic task of the larger Berkeley community — is to thoroughly examine every aspect of Szyk's work and place it in proper context."