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Stars of Political Cartooning – Arthur Szyk

Each day this month I will be profiling a notable political cartoonist. Since the choices are vast, I’ve decided to slim the numbers down a bit and eliminate living cartoonists. Perhaps I will do a current political cartoon stars in the future.

Here‘s an archive of the artists mentioned already.

Today we look at an opponent of Hitler’s Germany who Eleanor Roosevelt called a “one-man army against fascism.”


Arthur Szyk was born in Poland to Jewish parents in 1894. He was actually expelled from a school in his teens for doing anti-Czarist, pro-Zionist/pro-Polish sketches, so even as a youth he was determined to use his artistic skills to attack what he felt was wrong with the world.

Szyk (pronounced “shick”) soon became an extremely popular artist, particularly with his miniature portraits (there is no doubt that Szyk was the pre-eminent miniature portrait artist, as few people specialized in the artform in the 20th Century – it was big in the 1500s).

He was extremely opposed to Nazi rule, and spoke out against Hitler and his ilk for years before the war, and due to the dangers of criticizing Hitler, Szyk moved to England, where he was also censored to keep from offending Germany. Once the war began, however, things changed, and now his anti-Nazi work was in high demand.

Szyk moved to America in 1940 (he ultimately became a US citizen in 1948) and he soon became extremely popular for his anti-Nazi caricatures and cartoons.

Here are a sampling….

Early on, Szyk mocked the Nazis as incompetent…

but soon, he was depicting Hitler and his crew as a dominant force.

Here, they discuss their plans to re-shape the globe…

Here is an extremely disturbing piece depicting Uncle Sam and John Bull in chains before Hitler, who is using a rug made of a Jew…

Here’s Death and Satan supporting Hitler

Here is Satan leading the Axis forces…

Here’s a frightening image of what would happen if the Nazis got their way, according to Szyk…

Szyk’s medieval interests are at play here in this famous piece he did to raise support for Poland…

This is an interesting look at people putting aside racial differences for the greater good…

Here’s an amusing piece Szyk did for Roosevelt’s 1944 re-election campaign…

Finally, here is Szyk’s celebration of V-E Day…

Szyk died in 1951 – sadly, right before his death, the House Un-American Activities Committee actually chose to investigate this man, a man who devoted the latter years of his life to promoting the United States.

What a shame.

Thanks to the Arthur Szyk Society for the images used this week!


Gorgeous post! Current Szyk news of note: The Deutsches Historisches Museum [German Historical Museum] in Berlin, in cooperation with The Arthur Szyk Society, is hosting “Arthur Szyk – Drawing Against National Socialism and Terror” (http://www.dhm.de/ausstellungen/arthur-szyk/en/index.html) from now until January 4, 2009. This exhibition is the first-ever showing of Szyk’s work in Germany and is earning international acclaim. See art critic Michael Kimmelman’s recent article for The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/08/arts/design/08szyk.html?_r=1&ref=world&oref=slogin) for an American perspective on the exhibition.

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