Page 60 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 40

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Isaac’s Sacrifice in the Bible
Illustrations of Lilien and Pann
n e
o f
t h e
p r o b l em s
con fron ting modern Jew ish artists in illus­
trating the Bible has been the challenge o f the long tradition o f
Christian depiction o f biblical themes. T h e Jew ish artist, Abel
Pann, put it well in his “Why I have Illustrated the B ible” :
I have felt a reproach , that almost every nation has p ro ­
duced its illustrator o f the Bible, except the one whose
gen ius created that wonderful B ook .1
T h e problem is already de lineated here in its essence — the
disparity in Jew ish cultural history between the rich verbal trad i­
tion o f biblical commentary and the scarcity o f visual repre sen ta­
tion o f the text. It is by no means accidental that the problem has
been de fined thus by a non-orthodox artist in a secular society.
For, from an orthodox point o f view, illustrations o f sacred texts
are not only unnecessary, but are only debatably perm issible.
Were this not the case, there would have been no reason fo r the
uneasy feelings Pann exp resses.
In this article I will exam ine some portrayals o f the theme o f
The Sacrifice of Isaac , as repre sen ted by the work o f two Zionist
artists at the beginning o f ou r century. Th e first, Ephraim Moses
Lilien (1874-1925 ), was born in Galicia and became a book illus­
trator in Germany. He participated in p lanning fo r the Bezalel art
school in Eretz Israel (1906), but after teaching there for some
months left the country to return to Germany. Th e re he drew
illustrations for the Bible published in Germ an (1908), which
were based on studies he m ade in Eretz Israel, and later he even
included the New T e stam en t in his illustrations.
T h e second artist, Abel Pann (1883-1963) was born in Latvia
and studied art in Paris (1901-1913 ). In 1913 he imm igrated to
Eretz Israel and taught at the Bezalel art school in Je ru sa lem until
1 A. Pann, The Bible, The Palestine Art Publishing Co., Jerusalem, 1923, p. 2.