Page 78 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

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J
e w i s h
B
o o k
A
n n u a l
70
were not published before 1924, when a descendant, Alfred
Oppenheim, issued them as a slender volume, with many black-
and-white reproductions of the artist’s paintings, and a bio-
graphical postscript by the editor
(Erinnerungen
, Frankfort-on-
Main). Excerpts from these autobiographical sketches are in-
eluded in
Memoirs of My People
, edited by Leo W. Schwarz
(New York, 1943). Parts of Oppenheim’s work appeared in
Com-
mentary
(“Young Artist’s Rosh Hashanah: Rome, 1821,” Octo-
ber, 1954, and “The Rothschild of the Painters,” February,
1955), in another translation. The book relates, in a simple,
straightforward style, not devoid of humor, the artist’s rise from
the Judengasse of Hanau (near Frankfort) to world fame, his
studies in Paris and Rome, and his dealings with many outstand-
ing contemporaries, among them a grandson of Moses Mendels-
sohn, the painter Philipp Veit, who had become a fervent Catho-
lie in 1810.
More famous than Oppenheim is the Dutch artist, Jozef Israels
(1824-1911), who began to write in his last years and, among
other things, wrote an essay on Rembrandt and one on Goethe
as a draftsman. In his seventies, he took a lengthy trip through
Spain, Northern Morocco, and Southern France, accompanied by
his son Isaac, himself a painter of merit, and by Frans Erens, a
young man of letters. He described this journey in a full-length
travel book,
Spanje
(1899), and illustrated the work. An English
translation of the book by Alexander de Texeira de Mattos,
Spain
, was published in London in 1900. While there were
hardly any Jews in Spain, at every turn the traveler found vestiges
of their Golden Age on the Iberian Peninsula. In Tangier, he
met an old Jewish scribe (the sketch he made served as a basis
for the celebrated oil now in the Museum of Modern Art at the
Hague). On Place Jerusalem in Avignon he saw the synagogue,
and was approached by a Russian Jewish refugee who com-
plained that he could not obtain Matzot or keep the Feast of
Tabernacles in this French town and that his children were grow-
ing up without a word of Hebrew.
Whereas both Oppenheim and Israels were observant Jews,
Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) was not. As a young man, he left
his orthodox, Sefardic family at St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands
to study art in Paris where he was to settle for good. He was a
leader of the Impressionist school, and therefore, along with his
associates Monet and Sisley, and his pupils Cezanne and Gauguin,
was exposed to bitter attack by the critics. Having raised a large
family, yet being unable to sell his uncommon paintings, he was
in financial difficulties even into his old age. In letters addressed
to his eldest son, Lucien (1863-1944), who became known in
England mainly as an engraver, he confided his difficulties and
worries. There are several comments on the Dreyfus Case (“You
will realize that the man may well be innocent”) and a shocked
repetition of a statement made by an artist-friend (“If Dreyfus