By Tom Sandqvist
This survey asks a doubtless basic query: Is there an affinity among the emergence of recent paintings and diverse Avant-Garde pursuits reminiscent of Russian Suprematism and varnish or Hungarian Constructivism round concerning the flip of the final century and the method of Jewish assimilation within the Habsburg empire and Russian tsardom respectively? What concerning the attainable connection among «Hebraism», Jewish Messianism, Talmudic philosophy, and Kabbalistic speculations and the main radical, Utopian Avant-Garde hobbies of the area? was once Russian Cubo-Futurism, Suprematism, Productivism, Polish and Hungarian Constructivism truly fostered by means of rules and practices articulated in japanese Jewry? And what was once the effect of Anti-Semitism on how the artists regarding stylistic purity and their very own cultural identification within the quarter already ahead of the emergence of Avant-Gardism? and the way did the meant biblical ban on «graven images» effect the strategy of the Jewish artists?
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Additional resources for Ahasuerus at the Easel: Jewish Art and Jewish Artists in Central and Eastern European Modernism at the Turn of the Last Century
The seemingly obvious logical contradiction between the prohibition of the Second Commandment and on the other hand God’s own instructions of how, for instance, the Ark of the Covenant should be constructed was solved by introducing the categories of permitted sculpture and unlawful religious sculpture respectively, at the same time one was not allowed to enjoy any of the figurative images or representations at the risk of idolatry. 41 The most influential rabbi and philosopher in Jewish tradition of perhaps all times too linked up with these old rabbinical speculations in thoughts being reawakened within particularly the Central and Eastern European Haskalah, thus also giving the more and more prominent Jewish art its so to speak philosophical justification along with various, abundant references to Kabbalistic reasoning.
Furthermore, the exhibitions with only Jewish artists which followed the show in Basel, namely the exhibition in London in 1906 and the one in Berlin one year later, both of them were inspired by Buber’s writings of 1903. 51 The speech at the congress was a passionate plead for the importance of a Jewish renaissance in culture in general. 52 Indeed, the paintings must not represent some specifically Jewish subject to reflect the “Jewish spirit”, it’s enough to integrate the different represented objects into an allover composition where no single element overshadows another one.
47 The “racial aspects” is a formulation prevalent at that time which today might be translated into something referring to traits expressing ethnical belonging and associated cultural identity. This is something which, according to Ryback and Aronson, can be expressed in its purest form only when painting is not restrained by academic restrictions or by aspirations to mimetically represent nature, since these traits originate in the artist’s intuitively experienced unconsciousness and spontaneous will to express something essential.
Ahasuerus at the Easel: Jewish Art and Jewish Artists in Central and Eastern European Modernism at the Turn of the Last Century by Tom Sandqvist