Jesekiel David Kirszenbaum (1900-1954) – Student of the Bauhaus

Self-portrait, ca. 1925. Oil on canvas, 55 x 37.5 cm
Self-portrait, ca. 1925. Oil on canvas, 55 x 37.5 cm

In October/November 1931, Kirszenbaum took part in the international exhibition in Berlin entitled Women in Need, which was held in the Haus der Juryfreien in the Platz der Republik and in which the artist showed a portrait of a lady painted in oil.[40] This was in response to a campaign against the abortion law (paragraph 218) in the women’s magazine Der Weg der Frau, which was published by the publishing group belonging to the communist publisher Willi Münzenberg (1889-1940). In 1932 and 1933, the magazine Magazin für Alle, which belonged to the Universum Bücherei für Alle book club, which had links to the KPD and was part of the International Workers’ Assistance/Internationalen Arbeiterhilfe (IAH) organised by Münzenberg, published graphic scenes by Kirszenbaum, including a community gathering in the synagogue to accompany an article by Nándor Pór entitled “God’s Law?“.[41] More of his drawings appeared in the satirical magazine Roter Pfeffer, successor to the Eulenspiegel in Münzenberg’s Neuen Deutschen Verlag, and in the Roten Fahne, the main publication of the KPD.[42]

In November 1931, on the occasion of his exhibition in the Galerie Fritz Weber, Kirszenbaum was commended in the Roten Fahne by the paper’s culture editor Alfred Durus (Alfréd Kemény,1895-1945), member of the Sturm circle and co-founder of the Asso, as “an artist of the Eastern European proletariat” (see PDF 2). Ideologically, the artist finds himself “in a transitional stage between mysticism and marxism”. The milieu of the Eastern Jewish proletariat “is suggestively and fascinatingly brought to life by him in artistically masterful oil paintings and watercolours”. “However, one hopes this ideological ascension will not be overturned like it was for the great proletariat painters of Eastern European Judaism, Chagall and Jankel Adler”. “At any rate, a hard battle still has to be fought to ensure complete coverage of the contemporary revolutionary world view, dialectic materialism”.[43]

In 1932, Kirszenbaum showed his works at the Revolutionäre Malerei exhibition, a special exhibition of the Association of Revolutionary Visual Artists/Bund revolutionärer bildender Künstler (BRBKD) now referred to as Asso.[454] The exhibition showed works of artists, and indeed of members of the BRBKD, whose work had previously been removed from the Great Berlin Art Exhibition/Großen Berliner Kunstausstellung by the police because of its critical content. In Magazin für Alle, Durus reported on Kirszenbaum’s participation in the exhibition, as well as that of Asso members Alois Erbach (1888-1972) and Horst Strempel (1904-1975) and described Kirszenbaum’s etching “Pogrom” (Fig. 11): Kirszenbaum’s scenes from Eastern European Judaism, “do not show the life of a religious community but rather the terrible fate of an Eastern proletariat that has much in common with the fate of all the word’s proletarians.”[45]

Artistically, Kirszenbaum had favoured different styles since his time at the Bauhaus. The two earliest known works, etchings with scenes from the synagogue, “Ba'ei Shalom” (those who come in peace) and a boy before the Rabbi with the Tora,[46] were presumably produced in 1923 at the Bauhaus in Weimar and still demonstrate the artist’s autodidactic, naturalistic style. The self-portrait created ca. 1925 (see cover photo) reveals a cubist influence. The voluminous and rounded forms of the upper body and the arms appear doll like and make reference to the few self-portraits by Oskar Schlemmer, the “Male Head I” from 1912.[47] Even the sharp nose, the almond eyes, the sleek hairstyle and the ears that seem to be stuck on appear to have their origins there. However, similarities with the nose and eye section in the self-portrait created by Chagall in 1914 can also be found.[48] As the head of the mural workshop at the Bauhaus, Schlemmer was obviously well known to Kirszenbaum. The “Triadic Ballet” made up of cubist figurines was performed during the Bauhaus Week at the Weimar National Theatre in August 1923, with exhibitions and publications referring to it even years later. Kirszenbaum, possibly during his time in Berlin, portrayed himself with his waistcoat, stand-up collar and tie as an attractive young man from metropolitan society and with his professional attributes, his palette and his brush.

 

[40] Revolution and Realism 1978 (see Literature), page 50

[41] Magazin für Alle, Volume 7, No. 4, Berlin 1932, depicted in the Revolution and Realismus exhibition catalogue 1978 (see Literature), page 130, Fig. 438, caption page 269

[42] Linsler 2013 (see Literature), page 293 f.

[43] D. (Alfred Durus): An artist of the Eastern Jewish proletariat. J.D. Kirschenbaum, in: Die Rote Fahne, No. 199, Berlin, 5 November 1931, page 10, online resource: http://zefys.staatsbibliothek-berlin.de/index.php?id=dfg-viewer&set%5Bimage%5D=10&set%5Bzoom%5D=default&set%5Bdebug%5D=0&set%5Bdouble%5D=0&set%5Bmets%5D=http%3A%2F%2Fcontent.staatsbibliothek-berlin.de%2Fzefys%2FSNP24352111-19311105-0-0-0-0.xml

[44] Revolution and Realism 1978 (see Literature), page 50

[45] Alfred Durus: Revolutionary painting. Images from Erbach, Kirschenbaum, Strempel and Wegener, in: Magazin für Alle, Volume 7, No. 8, Berlin, August 1932, page 42. The Berlin exhibition Revolution and Realism 1978 (see Literature) showed Kirszenbaum’s etching “Pogrom”, forgotten at that time, after the illustration in the essay by Alfred Durus (catalogue page 269).

[46] Both works are owned by the Leo Baeck Institute in New York, https://www.lbi.org/artcatalog/search?q=Kirszenbaum. In reality, the titles given there, “Paul von Jecheskiel”, describe the original change of ownership (i.e. presented by Jecheskiel to Paul). What is supposedly a “W” in the signature is in reality a “D”, the flourish at the top right going to the right instead of to the left. Kirszenbaum later corrected this anomaly. It can be assumed that both etchings were produced during Kirszenbaum’s early days at the Bauhaus because professional machines were to print them.

 

Mediathek
  • Fig. 1: J.D. Kirszenbaum, 1920

    Fig. 1: J.D. Kirszenbaum, 1920

    J.D. Kirszenbaum drawing a portrait, 1920. Photograph owned by the family
  • Fig. 2: Study of Maïmonide, 1925

    Fig. 2: Study of Maïmonide, 1925

    Studying the Maïmonide, 1925. Ink on paper, 50 x 32 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 3: Musicians and their disciples, 1925

    Fig. 3: Musicians and their disciples, 1925

    Musicians and their disciples, 1925. Ink on paper, 50 x 32 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 4: Sorrow, ca. 1925

    Fig. 4: Sorrow, ca. 1925

    Sorrow, ca. 1925. Watercolour, 35.5 x 25 cm, Jewish Historical Institute/Żydowski Instytut Historyczny im. Emanuela Ringelbluma, Warsaw
  • Fig. 5: Fiddler in the Shtetl, ca. 1925

    Fig. 5: Fiddler in the Shtetl, ca. 1925

    Fiddler in the Shtetl, ca. 1925 Oil on canvas, 90 x 71 cm, Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem
  • Fig. 6: The wedding, 1925

    Fig. 6: The wedding, 1925

    The wedding, 1925. Ink on paper, 28 x 22 cm, Jewish Historical Institute/Żydowski Instytut Historyczny im. Emanuela Ringelbluma, Warsaw
  • Fig. 7: In the Beth Hamedrasch, ca. 1925

    Fig. 7: In the Beth Hamedrasch, ca. 1925

    In the Beth Hamedrasch, ca. 1925. Etching, 15 x 12 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 8: Midnight prayer, ca. 1925

    Fig. 8: Midnight prayer, ca. 1925

    Midnight prayer, ca. 1925. Etching, 15 x 12 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 9: Yom Kippur, ca. 1925

    Fig. 9: Yom Kippur, ca. 1925

    Yom Kippur prayer, ca. 1925. Etching, 10 x 14 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 10: Hassidim, 1925

    Fig. 10: Hassidim, 1925

    Dance of the Hassidim, 1925. Drypoint etching, 25 x 17.5 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 11: Cossack pogrom, ca. 1930

    Fig. 11: Cossack pogrom, ca. 1930

    Pogrom by the Cossacks, ca. 1930. Etching, 25 x 27 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 12: Water carrier, 1925/26

    Fig. 12: Water carrier, 1925/26

    Water carrier, 1925/26. Illustration to accompany: Adam Olearius, Die erste russische Revoulution (1656), in: Der Querschnitt, Volume 7, Berlin 1927, Issue 3, page 195
  • Fig. 13: Harmonica player, 1925/26

    Fig. 13: Harmonica player, 1925/26

    Harmonica player, 1925/26. Illustration to accompany: S. Dimitrijewski, Stalin – Aufstieg eines Mannes, in: Der Querschnitt, Volume 11, Berlin 1931, Issue 6, page 367
  • Fig. 14: Fiddler, 1926

    Fig. 14: Fiddler, 1926

    Fiddler, 1926. Illustration to accompany: Ramon Gomez de la Serna: Maria Wassiljewna. Russische Novelle, in: Der Querschnitt, Volume 9, Berlin 1929, Issue 2, page 95
  • Fig. 15: Satirical illustrations, 1926

    Fig. 15: Satirical illustrations, 1926

    Three satirical illustrations. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 55th Edition, No. 21, 12 March 1926, page 82
  • Fig. 16: Three cartoons, 1926

    Fig. 16: Three cartoons, 1926

    Three cartoons. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 55th Edition, No. 21, 28 May 1926, page 158
  • Fig. 17: Carte blanche for the “truth”!, 1926

    Fig. 17: Carte blanche for the “truth”!, 1926

    Carte blanche for the “truth”! In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 55th Edition, No. 26, 2 July 1926, page 195
  • Fig. 18: Mistaken, 1926

    Fig. 18: Mistaken, 1926

    Mistaken. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 55th Edition, No. 35, 3 September 1926, page 267
  • Fig. 19: Three cartoons, 1926

    Fig. 19: Three cartoons, 1926

    Three cartoons. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 55th Edition, No. 36, 10 September 1926, page 274
  • Fig. 20: Buds of the Nation, 1926

    Fig. 20: Buds of the Nation, 1926

    Buds of the Nation. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 55th Edition, No. 47, 26 November 1926, page 367
  • Fig. 21: Film stars, 1927

    Fig. 21: Film stars, 1927

    Film stars. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 5, 4 February 1927, page 38
  • Fig. 22: The sporty friend of the family, 1927

    Fig. 22: The sporty friend of the family, 1927

    The sporty friend of the family In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 6, 11 February 1927, page 43
  • Fig. 23: Beauty treatment, 1927

    Fig. 23: Beauty treatment, 1927

    Beauty treatment. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 11, 18 March 1927, page 83
  • Fig. 24: Tedious times, 1927

    Fig. 24: Tedious times, 1927

    Tedious times. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 14, 8 April 1927, page 107
  • Fig. 25: Dawn, 1927

    Fig. 25: Dawn, 1927

    Dawn. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 17, 29 April 1927, page 126
  • Fig. 26: Patriotism, 1927

    Fig. 26: Patriotism, 1927

    Patriotism. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 18, 6 May 1927, page 134
  • Fig. 27: Summer fashion, 1927

    Fig. 27: Summer fashion, 1927

    Summer fashion. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 25, 24 June 1927, page 187
  • Fig. 28: Difficult case, 1927

    Fig. 28: Difficult case, 1927

    Difficult case. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 30, 29 July 1927, page 230
  • Fig. 29: Remedy for obesity, 1927

    Fig. 29: Remedy for obesity, 1927

    Remedy for obesity. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 41, 14 October 1927, page 319
  • Fig. 30: Two cartoons, 1927

    Fig. 30: Two cartoons, 1927

    Two cartoons. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 56th Edition, No. 45, 11 November 1927, page 351
  • Fig. 31: The Expressionists´ Ball, 1928

    Fig. 31: The Expressionists´ Ball, 1928

    The Expressionists´ Ball. In: Ulk. Weekly Publication of the Berliner Tageblatt, 57th Edition, No. 44, 2 November 1928, page 354
  • Fig. 32: The art enthusiast, 1929

    Fig. 32: The art enthusiast, 1929

    The art enthusiast. In: Jugend, 34th Edition, Munich 1929, No. 28, page 450
  • Fig. 33: Everyone once in prison, 1929

    Fig. 33: Everyone once in prison, 1929

    Everyone once in prison. In: Jugend, 34th Edition, Munich 1929, No. 37, page 597
  • Fig. 34: Snippets of conversation, 1931

    Fig. 34: Snippets of conversation, 1931

    Snippets of conversation. In: Jugend, 36th Edition, Munich 1931, No. 29, page 457
  • Fig. 35: The table of regulars, 1931

    Fig. 35: The table of regulars, 1931

    The table of regulars. Illustration to accompany: Jules Sauerwein, Verständnis für Deutschland, in: Der Querschnitt, Volume 11, Berlin 1931, Issue 5, page 291
  • Fig. 36: Matadors of the Reichstag, 1931

    Fig. 36: Matadors of the Reichstag, 1931

    Matadors of the Reichstag. Illustration to accompany: O.B. Server, Matadore des Reichstags VII, in: Der Querschnitt, Volume 11, Berlin 1931, Issue 8, page 555
  • Fig. 37: Man with cigarette, 1935

    Fig. 37: Man with cigarette, 1935

    Man with cigarette, 1935. Watercolour, 47 x 35 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 38: The Jewish villagers, 1937

    Fig. 38: The Jewish villagers, 1937

    The Jewish villagers greeting the Messiah, 1937. Oil on artist’s board, 59 x 69 cm, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
  • Fig. 39: The arrival of the Messiah, 1939

    Fig. 39: The arrival of the Messiah, 1939

    The arrival of the Messiah in the village, 1939. Oil on canvas, 60 x 75 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 40: Family on the move, 1939

    Fig. 40: Family on the move, 1939

    Family with wagon on the move, 1939. From the series: Exodus, etching, 10 x 12 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 41: Fleeing, 1939

    Fig. 41: Fleeing, 1939

    Fleeing, 1939. From the series: Exodus, etching, 9 x 12 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 42: Water carrier, 1942

    Fig. 42: Water carrier, 1942

    Water carrier from Staszów, 1942. Oil on canvas, 50 x 40 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 43: The Messiah, 1942

    Fig. 43: The Messiah, 1942

    The Messiah and angels arriving in the village, 1942. Oil on canvas, 40 x 45 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 44: On the run, 1945

    Fig. 44: On the run, 1945

    A mother and two children on the run, 1945. Oil on paintersá card, 37 x 37 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 45: Man from Staszów, ca. 1946

    Fig. 45: Man from Staszów, ca. 1946

    Man from Staszów, ca. 1946. Oil on canvas, 50 x 45 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 46: Jew with pipe

    Fig. 46: Jew with pipe

    Portrait of Jew with pipe, undated. Oil on canvas, 61 x 45.4 cm, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
  • Fig. 47: The Messiah in the shtetl, 1946

    Fig. 47: The Messiah in the shtetl, 1946

    The arrival of the Messiah in the shtetl, 1946. Oil on canvas, 40 x 45 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 48: Rabbi, 1947

    Fig. 48: Rabbi, 1947

    Rabbi, 1947. Oil on canvas, 75 x 60 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 49: No room for Jews

    Fig. 49: No room for Jews

    There is no room for Jews in our world, undated. Oil on canvas, 33 x 40 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 50: Self-portrait, 1946

    Fig. 50: Self-portrait, 1946

    Self-portrait, 1946. Oil on canvas, 78 x 60 cm, Frans Hals Museum, Haarlem
  • Fig. 51: Portrait of Robert Giraud, 1946

    Fig. 51: Portrait of Robert Giraud, 1946

    Portrait of Robert Giraud, 1946. Oil on canvas, 46 x 37 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 52: The butcher, 1947/48

    Fig. 52: The butcher, 1947/48

    The butcher (Le Boucher), 1947/48. Watercolour, 54 x 41 cm, Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris
  • Fig. 53: Brazilian boy, 1947

    Fig. 53: Brazilian boy, 1947

    Brazilian boy with kite, 1947. Oil on canvas, 46 x 25 cm, Mishkan Museum of Art, Ein Harod
  • Fig. 54: Festa de São João, 1952

    Fig. 54: Festa de São João, 1952

    Festa de São João in São Paulo, 1952. Oil on canvas, 117 x 80 cm, Centre national des arts plastiques, Paris
  • Fig. 55: In his Parisian studio, ca. 1952

    Fig. 55: In his Parisian studio, ca. 1952

    J.D. Kirszenbaum in his studio in Paris, ca. 1952. Photograph owned by the family
  • Fig. 56: Fish with abstract background

    Fig. 56: Fish with abstract background

    Fish with abstract background, undated. Watercolour, 30 x 48 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 57: Abstract

    Fig. 57: Abstract

    Abstract, undated. Gouache, 17 x 22,5 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 58: Fish, 1954

    Fig. 58: Fish, 1954

    Fish on flat background, 1954. Oil on canvas, 35 x 28 cm, owned by the family
  • Fig. 59: The Prophet Elijah, ca. 1954

    Fig. 59: The Prophet Elijah, ca. 1954

    The Prophet Elijah, ca. 1954. Watercolour, 75 x 95 cm, owned by the family
  • PDF 1: Der Sturm catalogue, 1927

    J.D. Kirschenbaum exhibition. Paintings, watercolours, drawings, Der Sturm catalogue, Berlin, April 1927
  • PDF 2: Die Rote Fahne, 1931

    Alfred Durus: Ein Künstler des ostjüdischen Proletariats. J.D. Kirschenbaum, in: Die Rote Fahne dated 5 November 1931
  • PDF 3: Ten watercolours by Kirszenbaum, 1953

    Ten watercolours by Kirszenbaum. Inspired by the Hassidic legends of I. L. Peretz. Preface by Waldemar George, Paris: Au pont des arts, 1953