Page 107 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 36

Basic HTML Version

9 9
FREUDENHEIM / BOOKS ON ART AND THE JEW ISH TRADITION
somewhat Germanically heavy, this is an interesting and im-
portan t attempt to integrate the various kinds of art in the
Jewish past and present them in some coherent statement. The
book lacks adequate photographs, bu t does supply a useful his-
tory-art chart showing parallels between the Jewish and general
fields. Hyman Lewbin’s book is unfortunately full of bad plates,
relating it visually with the Eastern European p rin ting environ-
ment of the artists under discussion, bu t the text is, in fact,
quite interesting. The artists (e.g., Schatz, Antokolski, Israels,
Hirszenberg, Gottlieb, Glicenstein, Levitan) probably do not
merit the au tho r’s grandiose claims for them, bu t their work is
of interest, and it is refreshing to see a writer pay attention to
a segment of the field, rather than trying to encompass it all
at once.
Lewbin succeeds reasonably well because he knows where he
is going with his artists. Avram Kampf’s extremely important
exhibition catalogue lacks that kind of direction, in spite of its
ambitious theme. Much has been written elsewhere about the
noted Jewish Museum exhibition, and this is not the place
for a review of that; bu t the catalogue essay never justifies the
gargantuan selection of paintings or the various inclusions and
exclusions. This is almost an object lesson on the dangers of
“theme shows”—the material and the theme are in conflict, while
the catalogue never matches the ambitions set for the project.
Yet the exercise was an important one, and perhaps its errors
will prove useful to further attempts in this delicate area.
Jane Dillenberger is a Christian art historian whose contribu-
tions to the examination of Jewish art may yet prove influential
for Jewish scholars as well. Two of the five artists she tackles
in
Secular Art with Sacred Themes
are Jewish (Chagall and
Newman), and she challenges the viewer to find meanings in
their works on several levels. This challenge is carried even
further in two exhibitions with their related catalogues. The
second of these, written with her husband, John Dillenberger,
the noted theologian and historian, includes work by more
than a dozen “Jewish artists”—some of whose offerings may
only be seen as very tangentially related to anything Jewish.
T he Dillenbergers have broken new ground in the field of
attempting to examine questions of spirituality in art, and the
artists’ own personal commitments as expressed in their works.