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Traces of a Jewish Artist: The Lost Life and Work of Rahel Szalit

Traces of a Jewish Artist: The Lost Life and Work of Rahel Szalit

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By Kerry Wallach, art by Rahel Szalit. Published by Pennsylvania State University Press. 

Hardcover, 312 pages, text with B&W and Colour images, 2024. 

Graphic artist, illustrator, painter, and cartoonist Rahel Szalit (1888-1942) was among the best-known Jewish women artists in Weimar Berlin. But after she was arrested by the French police and then murdered by the Nazis at Auschwitz, she was all but lost to history, and most of her paintings have been destroyed or gone missing. Drawing on a range of primary and secondary sources, this biography recovers Szalit's life and presents a stunning collection of her art.

Szalit was a sought-after artist. Highly regarded by art historians and critics of her day, she made a name for herself with soulful, sometimes humorous illustrations of Jewish and world literature by Sholem Aleichem, Heinrich Heine, Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dickens, and others. She published her work in the mainstream German and Jewish press, and she ran in artists' and queer circles in Weimar Berlin and in 1930s Paris. Szalit's fascinating life demonstrates how women artists gained access to Jewish and avant-garde movements by experimenting with different media and genres.

This engaging and deeply moving biography explores the life, work, and cultural contexts of an exceptional Jewish woman artist. Complementing studies such as Michael Brenner's The Renaissance of Jewish Culture in Weimar Germany, this book brings Rahel Szalit into the larger conversation about Jewish artists, Expressionism, and modern art.


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