By Eliane Strosberg
Abbeville Press, $26.95, 212 pages

During the twentieth century, when many artists turned from figuration to abstraction, Jewish artists continued to paint the human figure. Author Eliane Strosberg’s book The Human Figure and Jewish Culture focuses on how the Jewish background of these artists influenced the creation of works centered on the human figure. Figurative art has had a place in Judaism for thousands of years despite the Second Commandment’s prohibition of graven images. Strosberg analyzes the human figure from Genesis to the Enlightenment and Human Expressionism in the Early Twentieth Century.

This beautiful book is a must read for anyone interested in art history or Jewish culture. With more than one hundred full-color reproductions, Strosberg’s work is an exploration of human nature. She compares artists who dedicate themselves to figurative art, a movement she dubs “Human Expressionism.” She pays particular attention to immigrant painters and lesser known artists. Also fascinating is her discussion on the Holocaust’s effect on Jewish artists. The author’s commentary is highly readable. She examines the diversity in style, subject, function, location and time period found in Jewish art over the last 150 years.

Elizabeth Franklin

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