Page 145 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 42

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ZIVA AMISHAI-MAISELS
Steinhardt and Bialik
In
1916, JAKOB STEINHARDT ,
stationed in Lithuania with the
German army, was strongly affected by the Russian pogroms that
had occurred in Eastern Europe at the start of World War I. This
experience inspired him to create a drawing which he labeled in
Hebrew
Pogrom III
(fig. 1). The composition is dominated by a
bearded old patriarch who raises his head and arms to the heav­
ens in a gesture compounded of impotent fury and despair. He is
surrounded by the terrible effects of the pogrom: corpses o f old
men, women and babies lie beside a torn Torah scroll. To the
right, the symbolic skeleton of death emerges from the house,
while at the lower left a pig stares at a dead child. Behind this
horrific scene, the frame houses totter and the sun goes into
eclipse so that the moon and stars are visible, as earth and the
heavens cataclysmically echo the destruction in the foreground.
The impact of this scene is all the stronger because of the highly
expressionistic style in which it is rendered: the angular, broken
forms further distort the anguished figures.
This drawing forms part o f a series of works created during
1915-17. In this series, Steinhardt depicted the sadness, poverty
and faith o f Lithuanian Jewry. However, unlike the other scenes
in this series,
Pogrom III
was not drawn from life, as Steinhardt
had not actually witnessed the Russian pogroms. His drawing
relies instead on a number of pictorial and literary sources which
he integrated to produce a new interpretation of this theme.
The novelty of this interpretation stands out clearly when one
compares it to the two dominant types of pre-1916 pogrom ico­
nography. Many of these works, especially those which were in-
1 I have been unable to trace this drawing, which is known only through a repro­
duction in Arno Nadel
,Jacob Steinhardt
, Berlin: Neue Kunsthandlung, 1920,
p. 41. A later painting o f this theme from 1919 is known only from a torn pho­
tograph in the artist’s archives in Nahariya.
1 3 7