Page 45 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

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Self-Revelations: Some Autobiographies
of American Jewish Artists
a n y
a m e r i c a n
e w i s h
a r t is t s
have been blessed also with lit-
erary talent. The painter, Benjamin Kopman, wrote poetry of
which, unfortunately, very little has found its way into print.
Max Weber fared better; his
Cubist Poems
was published in
London in 1914; a collection of free verse,
, was issued
in New York in 1926; his
Essays on Art
appeared there in 1916.
Ben Shahn was very prolific as a writer. The texts of his Charles
Eliot Norton Lectures at Harvard University in 1956 and 1957
were printed in book form,
Shape of Content
(Cambridge, Mass.,
Alphabet of Creation
(New York, 1954) consists of his
version of a legend from the
Sefer ha-Zohar,
“Book of Splendor,”
illustrated by a number of his drawings. Shahn’s
Love and Joy
about Letters
(New York, 1963) includes many pictures based
on the Latin or the Hebrew calligraphy; the introductory essay
relates the artist’s fascination with, and pursuit of, aesthetic prop-
erties of letters.
Nearly all of Shahn’s essays and addresses contain illuminating
references to his life story, and especially to his boyhood in a
Jewish quarter of Brooklyn. He failed, however, to compile a
comprehensive autobiography like those by Jacob Epstein (1880־
1959), Jo Davidson (1883-1952) and William Zorach (1887־
1966). Nor did he leave us the kind of autobiographical sketches
written by Maurice Sterne (1878-1957) that could, posthumously,
be assembled into a book.
Epstein’s reminiscences appeared in 1940 under the title,
There Be Sculpture
(G. P. Putnam’s Sons, New York). At that
time the sculptor was considered a controversial figure by many
art lovers. His
had just caused a furor because the artist
had portrayed the first man as a clumsy and uncouth creature,
closer resembling the apes than a matinee idol. But a little over
a decade later, having been knighted by the Queen as “Sir Jacob,”
this New York-born Jew who had long before obtained British