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Jewish Museum Milwaukee Features Propaganda Art by Arthur Szyk

Political cartoons have a rich and often influential history in this country. The 20th century illuminator Arthur Szyk was known as both a caricaturist and provocateur – his work was used in the US propaganda machine during World War II.

But he’s also known for his work in Jewish motifs, and that’s a key reason for the exhibit currently on at Jewish Museum Milwaukee, called Arthur Szyk: The Art of Illumination.

“The most well-known aspect of his work is his propaganda in terms of World War II, and really being identified as FDR’s soldier in art because of the impact of his propaganda works which were incredibly influential in swaying public opinion for the United States to join World War II,” says Molly Dubin, the curator of the exhibit.

Arguably Szyk’s most famous work is his “Haggadah,” which originally incorporated Nazi symbols and related the traditional Jewish text to the situation in Eastern Europe. Publishers at the time asked for all references to the Nazis to be removed, but the symbols used in his original “Haggadah” played an integral part in his propaganda works.

“Incorporating those symbols was really an effective way of communicating and letting people make those connections in their minds through his artwork which was a tremendous vehicle for communication,” says Dubin.

Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.