29th November

Samuel Hirszenberg (1865-1908): A Polish Jewish Artist in Turmoil

with Professor Mirjam Rajner , Professor  Richard Cohen  Professor François Guesnet (chair) and Professor Antony Polonsky (discussant)


Tuesday, 29 November 2022 18:00 – 19.00 GMT
on Zoom

This event is co-organised with
UCL’s Institute of Jewish Studies


Samuel Hirszenberg is an artist who deserves to be more widely known: his work intertwined modernism and Jewish themes, and he influenced later artists of Jewish origin.
Born into a traditional Jewish family in Łódź in 1865, Hirszenberg gradually became attached to Polish culture and language as he pursued his artistic calling. Like Maurycy Gottlieb before him, he studied at the School of Art in Kraków, which was then headed by the master of Polish painting, Jan Matejko. His early interests were to persist with varying degrees of intensity throughout his life: his Polish surroundings, traditional east European Jews, historical themes, the Orient, and the nature of relationships between men and women. He also had a lifelong commitment to landscape painting and portraiture.
Hirszenberg’s personal circumstances, economic considerations, and historical upheavals took him to different countries, strongly influencing his artistic output. He moved to Jerusalem in 1907 and there, as a secular and acculturated Jew who had adopted the world of humanism and universalism, he strove also to express more personal aspirations and concerns.

Mirjam Rajner is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Jewish Art at Bar-Ilan University. Since 2005 she has been co-editor of Ars Judaica, the leading journal on Jewish art and visual culture. She has published numerous articles on Marc Chagall and modern central and east European Jewish art in exhibition catalogues, edited volumes, and academic journals, such as East European Jewish Studies, Images, Jewish Art, Nashim, Studia Rosenthaliana, and Studies in Contemporary Jewry. She is the author of Fragile Images: Jews and Art in Yugoslavia,1918–1945 (2019), and is currently co-editing a collection of articles entitled Crossing Borders: Jewish History and Culture in Southeastern Europe.

Richard I. Cohen is Emeritus Professor in the Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He has co-curated two major art-historical exhibitions, one in New York (From Court Jews to the Rothschilds) and one in Paris (Le Juif Errant: Un Témoin du Temps). He is the author of Jewish Icons: Art and Society in Modern Europe, which was the recipient of the Arnold Wischnitzer Prize for the best book in Jewish history (1999), and has edited and co-edited over fifteen books, many focusing on aspects of Jewish art and history. Two of his co-edited works are published by the Littman Library: The Jewish Contribution to Civilization: Reassessing an Idea (2007), and Insiders and Outsiders: Dilemmas of East European Jewry (2010).

François Guesnet is Professor of Modern Jewish History at University College London. He specializes in Eastern European Jewish History and is co-chair of the editorial board of Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry. His book publications include Polnische Juden im 19. Jahrhundert (Vienna, Cologne, 1998), and, as editor, Warsaw. The Jewish Metropolis (2015, paperback 2017). He also co-edited the collected volume Sources on Jewish Self-Government in the Polish Lands from Its Inception to the Present (Boston, Leiden: 2022).

Antony Polonsky, Chief Historian of the Global Educational Outreach Programme/Polin Museum Warsaw, and Professor Emeritus, Brandeis University, is co-chair of the Editorial Board of Polin Studies in Polish Jewry and the author of numerous studies on eastern European Jewish history, including ‘The Jews in Poland and Russia’, 3 vols (2010, 2012), and ‘The Jews in Poland and Russia. A Short History’ (2013).

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