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    How does “Jewishness” fit into Jewish art Essay

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    For many Jews, their only way to make an impact on society was through the arts. They were not allowed in many instances to be a part of the governments or universities in the cities where they lived, so they turned to the press, the theater, music, sculpture, and painting to express themselves. It varied from artist to artist as to weather they expressed their Jewishness in their medium, however. Some would put openly Jewish themes in their work, while other would not, yet often be accused of doing so.

    Before the war painters in Germany were fighting giants the government and a leader, Wilhelm II, who, although he embraced technology and modern science, felt there was no place for modern art in his country. However, those who loved mo Max Liebermann, although he would refer to himself as a German painter, was often not put in the writings of art history, or was made to be a “villain” within the pages. He was referred to as making oriental, French, and Dutch style paintings.

    This was done to take away from any German qualities that his painting had. A true German, after all, can only have made German art. ” By making Liebermann a cosmopolitan Jewish painter, critics could deny him a place in the history books that contained German artists. Henry Thode, a German nationalist said of him, “Liebermann could just as well work in Holland or in France and be just as much at home; nothing explicitly German is present in him. ” In Frankfurt even after World War I, many non-Jewish people frequented the arts of talented Jews giving little regard to their ethnic or religious circumstances.

    In some circumstances, their paintings and theater productions had little to do with Jewish life or combined the worlds of German and Jew. Moritz Oppenheim, for example painted the scenes of Jewish family life, but also a portrait of Austrian emperor Joseph II. Even if theatrical productions did have clear Jewish messages, such as “The Dybuk,” which was about demonic possession and preformed in Hebrew, it did not seem to matter to the public at large. In both the art and musical arenas, the term Oriental was used interchangeable with Jewish.

    Before the war, Arnold Schoenberg, a famous composer, had become a Protestant, but because of numerous events, he would go back to his Jewish roots. The Dreyfus trials, which convicted a man of treason because he was a Jew among non-Jews in the hierarchy France, the census count of Jewish soldiers in 1916 Germany, the Judenz? ‘hlung, and his eviction from Mattsee in 1922, all made Schoenberg see the true nature of things and he returned to his faith and eventually embrace his ethnicity. As he stated in 1923, ‘For I have at last learnt the lesson that has been forced upon me during this year, and I shall not forget it.

    It is that I am not a German, not a European, indeed perhaps scarcely even a human being (at least, the Europeans prefer the worst of their race to me), but I am a Jew. ‘ Schoenberg was one artist who modifed his art and thoughts after the war. There were also several others like him, but it is by no means the common condition. After the war there was a need for a scapegoat and it found its victim in the Jewish population in many respects. Several Jewish artist would openly embrace their heritage for this very reason, claming that no matter what accomplishments they achieved, they were on their own.

    Although Jews only represented one percents of the overall German population, their influence on the culture was vast. In the first two decades of the twentieth century alone they were part of the theater as producers, directors, and actors. Jews were among the best and brightest that Germany had to offer in the fields of architecture, painting, writing and performing music, and sculpting. Yet, with all their successes there was still a sense of isolation for many because not only did their “art” set them apart, but also their heritage.

    Grenzjuden, the marginal Jew, found them selves lost at the turn of the century. They had left behind their Jewishness and tried to full assimilate, yet were not fully accepted by non-Jews. In their art they did not express any hint of their heritage, but their public often held their ethnicity in their minds In Ludwig Jacobowski’s, Werther the Jew, he portrays his main character as a Jewish man who turns away from his heritage and tries to become totally assimilated into the German culture. He finds fault with the characteristics that make him Jewish.

    Those looking for Jewish undertones in art that is in some way presented by a Jew, be it through painting, theater, writing or promotions behind the scenes, will see what they are searching for whether it is there or not. “Karl Kraus–a Jew himself–criticized Jewish journalists for debasing the German language. ” In many of the readings that talk strictly about the German artist and or writer, you would not know they were Jewish had you not looked it up someplace else. The question then becomes: Why is this fact left out? There are three possible answers to this inquiry.

    One, the author feels that this is a secondary and unimportant part of the person’s work. Two they feel that it might take away from their work in the eyes of some readers. Finally, that the person in question may not have expressed an interest in their Jewish heritage and thus the author does not want to betray the artist’s true intentions. In the years before the war both the old establishment and the government itself fought against modernist arts. Wilhelm II was hostile to any type of new artistic movement. Although their representation in new movements within the art world bolstered many Jews, it also gave fodder to anti-Semites.

    Even those who were not Jewish yet modernists were thought of as Jewish just because modernism was thought of as a Jewish instinct. In reality, “most Jews were not modernists and… many modernists were not Jews. ” According to Peter Gay, ‘It is sheer anti-Semitic tendentiousness… to canvass the great phenomenon of Modernism from the vantage point of the Jewish question. ‘ Because Jews had left their villages for urban areas a generation before other Germans, they were in a position to take advantage, in the late 1800’s, of the industrial revolution that would sweep across Europe.

    Those Jews who were involved in the modernist movement at the turn of the century were not quite completely assimilated, yet they were no longer a part of the traditional Jewish religion. They were immersed in German culture. They were a “transitional gereration. ” Even in the United States, until recently, you could find Jews on the boards of modern and contemporary museums, but not associated with “traditional” style galleries. Herwarth Walden, founder of Der Strurm, was married to Else Lasker-SchN? ler, and together the two were instrumental in the modernist movement.

    Walden published several other magazines also dealing with the art and literature world. Else was at the center of the “avant-garde” caf?’scene. They were both part of a crowd that would foster the new movements in art and literature; it was not one or two individuals, but a group that worked together. During the modernist movement at the turn of the century, Jews and non-Jews worked together and formed friendships in an effort to see the new arts reached the public eye. From the 1850’s on in the city of berlin the population grew at a tremendous rate, by 1905 the total was 2,040,148.

    The Jewish identity almost appears to go hand-in-hand with modernism in the eyes of some historians. Jews were possibly attracted to modernism in an era of post-emancipation when they were receiving many new freedoms and coming out of the old bonds of traditionalism that had kept them bound in their ethnic communities. Many artists in Berlin had remote Jewish elements in their work, from Lasker-SchN? ler with her elaborate oriental fantasies, to the work of Lesser Ury who found material to draw from within the Hebrew Bible. Even a few pieces of Max Liebermann’s work had clear Jewish themes.

    More substantial evidence of Jewish influence can be seen in the works of such artists as E. M. Lilien. Lilien was of the mind that “national” Jewish art should “be fashioned out of traditional Jewish motifs while incorporating contemporary styles. ” Because of this, his art was immediately seen as Jewish. But the depiction of Jew within the current period could be found only in film and the cabaret. In 1916 Ernst Lubitsch plays the character of Sally Pinkus in Pinkus’s Shoe Palace. Pinkus is a present-day Jew living in Berlin who becomes successful in the shoe business.

    Pinkus displays all the stereotypical traits of a Jewish man, but they are portrayed in a positive light. Pinkus was created during World War I. Many Jews saw the coming of the war as their chance to finally become totally acculturated into German society. As they fought with their fellow German citizens, giving their lives, they did not see how anti-Semitism could survive. At the start of the war, Jews were as patriotic as any other portion of the population, as the war drug on however their mood changed along with that of the rest of the country.

    Paul Cassirer founded a new magazine in August 1914 called Kriegszeit (Wartime). In its pages, artists contributed their interpretations of the war. Although the pictures began to portray horrendous scenes and depict the apprehensions of those at home, it was still loyal to the war efforts. By 1916 however, Cassirer had decided to start up a new journal, this one entitled Der Bildermann, which was devoted to promoting peace. It “included a variety of works depicting daily life in Germany, pacifist appeals, and trenchant social commentary.

    The censors eventually shut it down. The art of Ludwig Meidner and Jakob Steinhardt was changed by their encounters during the war. The outcome of associating with Eastern Jews (who were more traditional) and the impact it left on the work of Steinhardt can be seen as he returns to more customary depictions. “German Jews experienced a profound sense of betrayal. It was as if the bubble of the Jewish-German symbiosis had been burst. ” The arts were the place where Jews were making their greatest inroads to full assimilation.

    The networking and acceptance they were able to achieve in this area was unparalleled in other areas of German culture. Jews had many things working against them, however. Even if they were not defining themselves as “Jewish” artist some on the outside were. Philipp Stauff in 1913 put out a biographical dictionary that not only named Jews in the arts, but anyone who was associating with them. He stated, “Dealers, critics, and painters, who are strangers in our land and to our blood, stand today at the apex of the fine arts.

    He saw all Jews as being driven only by money and hate of all things un-Jewish. Stauff had the view that anyone with Jewish ancestors, no matter how far removed, was Jewish to the bone. He felt those who were far removed were actually quite dangerous, because they could possibly pass as German. At the time these feeling were generally dismissed, but they would latter be used by a propaganda machine. Through the channel of art, the Jewish-German citizen, who had not been totally accepted into society, could express their individuality and insights.

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