Dr. Haya Friedberg, head of the Modern Jewish Art section
and researcher Iris Abramovici have been working with Sotheby’s Tel Aviv for
the past three years to document 19th century paintings prior to their sale
at auctions. This has given the Modern Art section rare access to works
which might be inaccessible in private hands after their sale. Documentation
and research of these works trace the transformation from a mainly religious
iconography to a secular iconography which gained prominence in the art of
the 20th century.
Emancipation also encouraged Jews to perform civil duties as an expression of their newfound equality. One of these duties was army service. The image of the Jewish soldier who fought for his motherland was quite frequent in post-Emancipation paintings, reflecting pride as well as conflicts of identity among emancipated Jews. It gave expression to a contemporary dilemma of the time: to what extent could a Jew be a national patriot while maintaining identification with his native community. The image of a Jewish soldier was sometimes used to underscore the conflict and to bring out the fact that anti-Semitism was still in force despite the newly legislated freedoms. In those instances, the figure of the Jewish soldier is often juxtaposed with pogroms and images of persecution. In other paintings, the image of the soldier is presented as an ideal, thereby supporting assimilation and local patriotism.
In addition to this ongoing project, Iris Abramovici documented the German printed edition of The Book of Jonah (Das Buch Jona) written by Zimpel, illustrated by the Viennese -born Uriel Birnbaum (1894-1956). Severely wounded during World War I, Birnbaum created this work in 1921, during his recuperation.
Both Friedberg and Abramovici are recipients of scholarships from the Cecile and Michael Greenberg Endowment Fund established by Lorna Scherzer and siblings in memory of their parents.