Samuel Hirszenberg (1865-1908): A Polish Jewish Artist in Turmoil

Sara Ben-Isaac's picture
November 29, 2022
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Contemporary History, Cultural History / Studies, Humanities, Jewish History / Studies

Online Book launch and discussion with Professor Mirjam Rajner, Professor Richard Cohen,  Professor François Guesnet (chair) and Professor Antony Polonsky (discussant)


Samuel Hirszenberg was born into a traditional Jewish family in Łódź in 1865.He gradually became attached to Polish culture and language as he pursued his artistic calling. He studied at the School of Art in Kraków, and his early interests were to persist with varying degrees of intensity throughout his life: his Polish surroundings, traditional east European Jews, historical themes, the Orient, and the nature of relationships between men and women. He also had a lifelong commitment to landscape painting and portraiture.
Hirszenberg’s personal circumstances, economic considerations, and historical upheavals took him to different countries, strongly influencing his artistic output. He moved to Jerusalem in 1907 and there, as a secular and acculturated Jew who had adopted the world of humanism and universalism, he strove also to express more personal aspirations and concerns. His work, which deserves to be more widely known, intertwined modernism and Jewish themes, and he influenced many later artists of Jewish origin.

Mirjam Rajner is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Jewish Art at Bar-Ilan University. Since 2005 she has been co-editor of Ars Judaica, the leading journal on Jewish art and visual culture. She has published numerous articles on Marc Chagall and modern central and east European Jewish art in exhibition catalogues, and edited many volumes and academic journals. She is the author of Fragile Images: Jews and Art in Yugoslavia,1918–1945 (2019), and is currently co-editing a collection of articles entitled Crossing Borders: Jewish History and Culture in Southeastern Europe.
Richard I. Cohen is Emeritus Professor in the Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has co-curated two major art-historical exhibitions, one in New York (From Court Jews to the Rothschilds) and one in Paris (Le Juif Errant: Un Témoin du Temps). He is the author of Jewish Icons: Art and Society in Modern Europe, which was the recipient of the Arnold Wischnitzer Prize for the best book in Jewish history (1999), and has edited and co-edited over fifteen books, many focusing on aspects of Jewish art and history. Two of his co-edited works are published by the Littman Library: The Jewish Contribution to Civilization: Reassessing an Idea (2007), and Insiders and Outsiders: Dilemmas of East European Jewry (2010).

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