Arthur Szyk was born in Lodz, Poland in 1894 and died in New Canaan, Connecticut, USA, an American citizen, in 1951. He worked as an illustrator, illuminator, and cartoonist. Szyk is best known for his illustrated and illuminated Haggadah. After the rise of Hitler, Arthur’s political activism led him to produce popular anti-fascist cartoons. He considered himself a ‘soldier in art’.
Born to a well-off Jewish family, Arthur Szyk parents sent the talented teenager, aged 15, to Paris to study art at the prestigious Academy Julian. In Paris he not only studied illustration but also the almost lost art of manuscript illumination. Szyk’s cartoons for a Polish satirical magazine began a life-long devotion to political activism as well as art. In 1913 Szyk continued his artistic studies in Poland, and spent most of World War 1 illustrating and painting. By 1919 Arthur Szyk’s artistic reputation enabled him to be the Director of Propaganda for the Polish army in Lodz.
In 1921 he moved to Paris where he lived for the next fifteen years concentrating on book illustration and illuminating manuscripts. Szyk’s published work during this period included The Book of Esther (1925); Le Juif quit rit (1926 -The Laughing Jew, a book of Jewish stories) his monumental Statut of Kalisz (1932 – a 45 page illustration of Jewish rights in 13th century Poland) and Washington and his Times (1932 - a series of 38 pictures of the American Revolution).
 London and the Haggadah
In 1937 Arthur Szyk moved with his wife and children to London where he spent the next 3 years supervising the printing of the work for which he is most famous – his illustrated Haggadah. This mixture of religious and political art linked the Jewish Exodus from Egypt with the trials of the Jewish people through the centuries, especially the threat presented by the Nazis.
At the beginning of World War II, in 1940, Szyk went to Canada and the United States to support the war effort. His immensely popular, unflattering, satirical caricatures and cartoons of Hitler and his cohorts appeared in newspapers and magazines from Time and Esquire to the New York Post, as well as on American bases everywhere. Szyk considered himself to be a ‘soldier in art’ producing a variety of ‘propaganda’ material as part of his contribution to the fight. Eleanor Roosevelt, a personal friend, saw him as a ‘one man army’ against the Axis.
Szyk, an avid Zionist, was a follower and friend of Jabotinsky and a member of the Irgun organization. Throughout the war Szyk produced a variety of Jewish themed cartoons showing the threat European Jews were under and calling for their rescue. One notable one, published in 1943 - ‘We’re running out of Jews’ - depicted Hitler looking at a document stating ‘2 million Jews executed’. After the World War II he went back to book illustration and illuminating manuscripts. At the same time Arthur Szyk continued to support the Zionist cause with pictures of the ‘New Jew’ fighting for the land. After the founding of the State of Israel, Szyk produced an illuminated manuscript of the Proclamation of the State of Israel, as well as illustrating stamps and other ephemera for the new State.
His work can be seen online, and in museums around the world, including the American Library of Congress. Several biographies about Arthur Szyk and a new edition of his Haggadah are also available.