Legion of Honor’s Arthur Szyk Display

January 5, 2011

SC Guide

Legion of Honor

On Armistice Day in 1924, Alma de Bretteville Spreckels donated The Legion of Honor to the people of San Francisco honoring the Californians who died during World War I.  The massive complex houses a variety of  paintings, prints, porcelains, illustrated books and sculptures in a beautiful setting overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge and a  few minutes from Golden Gate Park.

During my first visit to this extraordinary art complex, I was introduced to the work of artist Arthur Szyk.  Born in Lodz, Poland in 1894, he died an American in New Canaan, Connecticut in 1951.    During his career his art was internationally recognized and he was lauded by the governments of the United States, Poland and France honoring his creative achievements.  His unique style incorporates elements of a variety of artistic traditions including Indian miniatures, French and Italian manuscript illumination, 19th century Polish history painting, Slavic folk art, 15th century German woodcuts, early Zionist Bezalel art and the Ballets Russes. I had never viewed such an extensive variety of styles and fascinating subjects which were displayed at this Legion of Honor exhibition which continues through  March 27.

By the 1930’s Szyk’s  works were acclaimed throughout Europe for his skills both as a social commentator (through cartoons and caricatures published mainly in the British and Polish presses) and as a illustrator of limited-edition fine art books.

He became the leading anti-Nazi artist in the United States during WWII but following the war he returned to peacetime projects illustrating many books ranging from Andersen’s Fairy Tales to the biblical books. He used his art to address the triumphs and calamities of his day.   His works convey the timeless messages of justice, freedom and self determination while its beauty recalls the brilliant illuminators of the 16th century, the political satirists of the 18th century and the New Objectivity of the 20th century.  Both his message and the beauty and uniqueness of his art will remain with me.

For information:

Legion of Honor

Lincoln Park

100 34th Ave.

San Francisco, CA


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