It is now generally considered that while men and women shared the same fate and their daily existence in the internment and concentration camps was more or less similar, differences between the sexes did exist. Such differences are reflected in the works of art produced in the camps.
In narratives or abridged cycles more or less faithful to the biblical text, art has portrayed biblical women as role models and reference, occasionally adding exegetical elements both Christian and Jewish. Although the text of the Bible became fixed at different dates and in various versions, these images are not fixed, but reflect the ebb and flow in society’s attitudes towards women and their role.
The earliest recorded native Anglo-Jewish artist was Catherine da Costa (1678?–1756), daughter of the physician to Charles II, who studied under the famous drawing master and engraver Bernard Lens and painted portraits of her family and other members of the early Anglo-Jewish community in a charming, though somewhat naive style. Not until a hundred years later did another Jewish woman, Rebecca Solomon, make any impact whatsoever on the English art scene.
Israeli women artists, second generation descendants of Holocaust survivors, have expressed in their art the grim atmosphere of absence, emptiness, and loss they absorbed. Their individual responses to the Holocaust differ in intensity and power.
By focusing on Jewish women artists working in Britain today, whose Jewishness and gender are central to their artistic output, it offered valuable insights into the diverse ways in which women perceive their Jewishness in contemporary Britain. Aware of their complex “otherness” as women, Jews and artists, they put that awareness to good creative use; and in so doing, proved that art has a crucial role to play in exploring—and perhaps crystallizing—issues of identity.
The 1970s were a conceptual and political period in Israeli art. Art during these years expressed the plural form—of the nation, the society and of modern art.
Women in general and Jewish women in particular have been participating in the artistic life of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union for over a hundred years.
While women are often excluded from the historical narrative of Israeli art-making, women artists made significant contributions to the canon of Israeli art throughout the twentieth century. Depicting landscapes, creating ceramics, and painting beautiful portraits, many female artists made significant contributions to the development of the Bezalel Art school and Israeli modern art. In 1952, the artistic Group of Ten was founded, to use a modern language in order to express the Israeli experience and landscape.
Although modern Austrian art attracted a high proportion of Jewish women, most of them are forgotten today both because of the male ethos of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century life which relegated women to the domestic domain, and because of the Holocaust which robbed many Jewish women artists of their lives and erased their artistic achievements from popular recognition.
Artist Eugenie Baizerman rarely exhibited her work and never sold a painting during her lifetime. According to her husband, sculptor Saul Baizerman, although she sought a quiet life to focus on her work, she nevertheless experienced an inner turmoil that manifested itself in the free, expressionistic colors of her canvases.
Ora Bat Chaim is a poet, painter, and concert manager who in her late 50s began a prolific music composition career. Bat Chaim was the manager of the Zavit Theater and composed over 400 pieces for musicians, plays, and movie soundtracks. Her music can be described as a reflection of Jewish mysticism, yoga, and universal principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
Berthe Bénichou-Aboulker was the first woman writer to have her work published in her country of birth, Algeria, whose generous land and mixed population she praised in Pays de flamme (Land of Flame).
The Berlin salons which developed in the late eighteenth century owed both their existence and the form of their development to Jewish women. These early salons were the result of a unique interrelation between the German enlightenment and Jewish Enlightenment; European movement during the 1770sHaskalah on the one hand and, on the other, young, educated Jewish women from well-to-do families, who were searching for a new role in life outside the patriarchal structures of their families. These salons have variously been criticized as a symptom of failing Jewish tradition or welcomed as a phenomenon of emancipation and acculturation.
Felicie Bernstein was one of the last Berlin salonnières, a patron of modern art and artists, and a philanthropist who supported early feminism.
Painter, printmaker, teacher, poet, celebrated raconteur, and art activist, Bernstein was an enduring fixture in the art worlds of New York and the summer colony at Gloucester, Massachusetts.
Tina (Regina Leopoldine) Blau, born in Vienna on November 15, 1845, not only overcame many obstacles but was the only Jewish woman artist in her generation to be professionally recognized.
Upon becoming acquainted with Adele Bloch-Bauer, a wealthy society woman and hostess of a renowned Viennese Salon at the beginning of the twentieth century, one can easily understand why art and life seemed to blend together in her eyes. She has been eternalized by the famous Austrian artist Gustav Klimt (1862–1918) in two majestic portraits (1907 and 1912), and possibly also in an allegory of the Jewish heroine Judith (1901), displayed in the Austrian Gallery in Vienna. All three paintings are historical witnesses to the significance of Jewish patronage during the Golden Era of fin-de-siècle Vienna.
Helen Abrahams Blum was an artist who developed a passion for theater. Blum exhibited her work in various galleries throughout the United States and designed scenery and costumes for the Little Theater Movement. She was an active member of the Rodeph Shalom Sisterhood and the international peace movement.
Brazil is home to the second largest Jewish community in South America. Jewish women played important roles in the absorption of Jewish immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, and also made important contributions to Brazilian intellectual and artistic life.
Ghitta Caiserman-Roth was a well-known Canadian artist who showed her work in galleries in Canada and New York. Caiserman-Roth studied at Parsons School of Design, the École des Beaux-Arts, and at the American Artists’ School and won several awards for her artistic achievements. In her later years, she served on the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts council.
For three decades Judy Chicago has melded politics with art through painting, sculpture, writing, and teaching.
Best remembered for her contribution to Jewish cultural life and for her unique ability to inspire those around her, Corinne Chochem had a distinct impact on Hebrew folk dance, both in her teaching and her two books, Palestine Dances (1941) and Jewish Holiday Dances (1948), the latter an original work for which Leonard Bernstein, Darius Milhaud, Ernst Toch, and Tedesco wrote music based on the original folk tunes.
The related fields of typography and graphic design played a vital role in the advent of modernism in early twentieth-century Europe, with many vanguard groups—better known for painting, sculpture, architecture, and manifestos—using design to test the practical application of their new modes of artistic production. The European avant-garde, imported to the United States by a wave of emigrés in the late 1930s, was embraced by a new breed of designers, eager to build upon the principles of an incipient “international style.” Elaine Lustig Cohen, with her husband, Alvin Lustig, were among the most prominent graphic designers to adopt these advanced aesthetic concepts for use in the American market.
Katherine M. Cohen was a sculptor and artist dedicated to advocating for equality for women in the arts. Comfortably situated in the community of Philadelphia’s Jewish elite, Cohen created many commissions for the community reflecting Jewish themes and illustrated a Jewish children’s book. Cohen made a speech at the Chicago World’s Fair advocating for the support of artists, and specifically female artists.
Lucille Corcos was, for some thirty years, the doyenne of the “modern primitivist” trend on the American art scene. Her paintings, with their composite urban scenes, are often views into various buildings that the observer generally sees only from the outside and in passing; Corcos turns them inside-out before the eye of the viewer. The work is literally “revealing.” As such, it is touching, witty, and thoroughly delightful to contemplate. Though Corcos paid little heed to conventions of scale and perspective, her work is far from abstract, and her renderings are painterly and nuanced.