Page 85 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 18

Basic HTML Version

W e r n e r — W r i t i n g s
of
J e w i s h A r t i s t s
73
“His face lighted up: ‘Now I know what I will write/ he
exclaimed.
“And so it happened that Bloch began to compose the rhapsody
for cello and orchestra that he called in Hebrew, Shelomo, one
part inspired by the clenched hand of the waxen king, the other
by the words, ‘All is vanity!’ ”
A good many artists have written about masters they adored,
be they contemporaries or artists of the past. Among these I
mention Jozef Israels’ monograph on Rembrandt (London,
1908), and Max Liebermann’s essay on Jozef Israels (Berlin,
1901). Fortunately for us, an English version of Liebermann’s
essay can be found in the September 1901 issue of the
Pall Mall
Magazine
of London. In it the writer compares “Wisdom of
Solomon,” a work of the 19th century German genre painter
Knaus, with Israels’ celebrated “Son of the Old People” :
“Knaus shows us an old Jew initiating his grandchild into
the mysteries of the second-hand trade: admirable figures, each
minute trait, each movement observed from life and reproduced
down to its smallest detail. With Israels, however, there is only
one figure: simply a poor Jew sitting motionless before his second-
hand shop. The weight of the whole picture is thrown into the
expression of the head; everything else is but barely suggested by
a few spots of color. But in the face of the man, who sits there
quietly with folded hands, we read the thousand years of pain
sung of by Heine.”
Horace Brodzky (born 1881) has given us biographies of the
sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (London, 1933) and of the
painter Jules Pascin (London, 1946). Brodzky offers a moving
description of his tragic friend, the erratic Bulgarian Jew, Pascin
(1885-1930):
“Every hour and every day of his waking life yielded something
for the magic of his pen, pencil or brush. His whole day was
an aesthetic experience, and all was material from which he ex-
tracted beauty . . . He was lonely, and had no home comforts.
Food was taken as on the wing, at odd times and places. He led
a complete art life, and it could only be nourished, as it was, in
various ways and in many stange places in the world.”
Modigliani’s Tormented Soul
Another tormented soul was the Italian Jew, Amedeo Modigli-
ani (1884-1920). In the introduction to an album of color repro-
ductions (New York, 1953) the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz (b.
1891) speaks about the artist’s unwillingness to live what is known
as a normal life:
“He was aware of his gifts, but the way he lived was in no
way an accident. It was his choice. One night during dinner I