Page 49 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 31

Basic HTML Version

As a celebrated painter and sculptor, he looked back with
wry amusement at his early struggles: “My routine was estab-
lished. When the boss came in at eight in the morning, I rode
the Th ird Avenue El down to Twenty-third Street to the old
National Academy of Design. I lived two separate lives, and
though I had some exciting adventures in the saloon, I did not
look or feel like the typical bartender of the Gay Nineties, nor
did the two years behind that bar contribute to my development,
as the romantics would have it.”
Many pages in the book are devoted to Jews, Judaism, and es-
pecially to anti-Semitism. Sterne was well aware of the deplorable
conditions in his native country where Jews were afraid to speak
Yiddish outside their homes. He resigned from a club when he
heard a member make an anti-Semitic remark. Having lived in
Berlin and having possessed devoted German friends, he was
greatly saddened and distressed by the upsurge of Nazism. He
characterized it as “a revolt against the entire Mediterranean
civilization,” with the Jew, as “the embodiment of that civiliza-
tion,” being “a natural target.”
Raphael and Moses Soyer were born in 1899 in Borisoglebsk,
Russia. Unlike his twin brother and their younger brother
Isaac (born in 1907), who are also distinguished painters,
Raphael Soyer has written several books. Only one,
merit: A Memoir
(Maecenas Press-Random House, New York,
1969), is to a large extent autobiographical, but it differs from
the books by Epstein, Davidson and Zorach. I t is the text of a
very informal journal which the artist began on October 25, 1967,
and continued until July 1, 1968, while traveling in Europe and
Israel. It describes his visits to many museums and his meetings
with several interesting personalities, among them some out-
standing colleagues. Yet throughout the book are pages of rem-
iniscences of earlier times.
While all the other artists were immigrants or the children
of immigrants with parents unappreciative of the arts, the Soyers'
father, a distinguished teacher of Hebrew and a well-known He-
brew writer, was sufficiently enlightened to encourage his sons
and daughters to choose whatever careers they liked. All the