Jewish Artist or Artist Who Is Jewish?

Shemoneh Esreh, no date

[Note: I originally posted this on my blog in March 2012. In June 2014 I posted it in a Huffington Post blog with the title, “The Art of Moshe Rynecki,” along with a slideshow of several Moshe Rynecki paintings.]

The category of Jewish Art History cannot be simply subsumed into a generalized European art history. The modern artist as the author-agent of the work of art is a relatively new persona and figure for Jews, emerging only in the nineteenth century along with greater historical movements of emancipation for Jews in Europe. My great-grandfather was split between affinities:  on the one hand, he was a painter of traditional Jewish life in Poland, settling his gaze upon scenes of synagogue, teaching, labor, and leisure. In this, his paintings are an invaluable source of visual information about a world that has vanished. [Read more…]