Databáze uměleckých výstav v českých zemích 1820 – 1950

Artists’ Gift to the 12th Zionist Congress

Date:1 September 1921 – 14 September 1921

Place: Karlovy Vary, Střelnice Hotel (today’s Národní dům)

Organizer:Ewer – Jüdischer Verlag, Berlín


The sales exhibition of prints by Jewish artists took place during the 12th Zionist Congress in Karlovy Vary. It was the first group show of Jewish artists in newly established Czechoslovakia. The catalogue came out in German, with the first 100 copies containing signatures of all artists included in it. The exhibition was prepared by the Berlin publishing house Ewer – Jüdischer Verlag. According to surviving archival materials, the publishing house officially requested permission from the Provincial Political Administration in Prague to hold the exhibition and also organized a show of its books as part of the congress.

The catalogue presented only 11 artists, although many more participated in the exhibition. Still, this was not enough in the eyes of contemporaries: in his text for the printed guide to the congress, Karl Schwarz claimed that the exhibition lacked many prominent artists, such as Max Liebermann. He also pointed out that the show did not offer a comprehensive overview of the participating artists’ work, making it impossible for visitors to get a general idea about Jewish art. Schwarz was critical of the fact that the show represented only artists with a connection to Germany. Yet, he believed that it demonstrated the importance of Jewish artists for modern art. 

According to reports and reviews published mainly in the German-language press, the exhibition had three parts. The first section contained prints by Julius Kroll, Friedrich Feigl, Rachel Szalit-Marcus, Leo Lesser Ury, Heinrich Tischer, and Leo Michelsohn. The correspondent of the Congress newspaper, Benjamin Samuely, was particularly interested in Lesser Ury’s monumental biblical figures, which covered one entire wall. Friedrich Feigl, a native of Prague, presented scenes from the Prague ghetto, which came out as a book that same year; the catalogue featured his wood engraving Hark, Israel! Rachel Szalit-Marcus exhibited illustrations for Mendele Moicher Sforim’s popular book Fischke der Krumme and Leo Michelsohn his woodcuts for Mischle Schualim, an ancient collection of rhymed fables. 

The second section was dedicated to the period’s famous artists, Hermann Struck, Jakob Steinhardt, Joseph Budko, and Wilhelm Schocken. Struck’s portraits moved Samuely to an emotional response: “Everything is seen with infinite love, reproduced with the highest mastery, the eyes glisten with Jewish suffering, burn with Jewish fire, blaze with Jewish fervour.” [Samuely 1921, p. 2]. Steinhardt’s works in both the exhibition and catalogue depict religious Eastern-European Jews, while Schocken exhibited 18 wood engravings from the series Lamentation of Jeremiah. The reviewers wrote extensively about Joseph Budko, who showcased his early and recent prints. In his text for the Congress newspaper, Samuely wrote that “rather than sentimentality, [Budko’s work] springs from technical perfection and a subtle sense of the most complex effects.” [Samuely 1921, p. 2]

The last part of the exhibition presented lesser-known artists and, unlike in the previous sections, there was no unified subject-matter line. Ernst Stern exhibited prints from the theatre environment, while the works of Ernst Oppler were inspired by ballet and Eugen Spiro’s by singers and concert halls. Animal themes appeared in relatively large numbers in the artworks by Wolfgang Meyer-Michael, Emil Pottner, and Ad. Ed. Herstein. Rudolf Saudek, formerly known primarily as a sculptor, presented etchings inspired by Dante’s Divine Comedy, and Adolf Melzer showcased two lithographic cycles drawing on the books of the Prophets.

The exhibition of Jewish art organized as part of the 12th Zionist Congress in Karlovy Vary in September 1921 presented nearly two hundred prints by eighteen Jewish artists. Although the show took place in newly founded Czechoslovakia, it represented only three German-Czech artists of Jewish origin: Friedrich Feigl, Adolf Melzer, and Rudolf Saudek. This was because the show was organized in Berlin. Artists, who had no ties to Ewer – Jüdischer Verlag, were not invited to the exhibition. It is important to note that although the show was held as part of the Zionist Congress, only a minimum of the works on display involved Zionist iconography. Old Testament and Jewish motifs prevailed, but one-third of the exhibited artworks were completely unrelated to Jewish tradition, history, and culture. The show was later followed by the Exhibition of Jewish Prints at the Lucerna Palace in 1922.

Eva Janáčová

Works Cited

Samuely 1921: Benjamin Samuely, Ein Gang durch die Kunstausstellung, Kongresszeitung. Organ des XII. Zionisten Kongresses, 1921, no. 7, 7. 9., pp. 2–3

Further Reading

 Milan Augustin, Sionistické kongresy v Karlových Varech, in: Historický sborník Karlovarska V, 1997, pp. 186–197

XII. kongres sionistický. Průvodce kongressem / XIIth Zionist Congress. Congress Guide / XII. Zionisten-Kongress. Kongress-Führer, Berlin 1921

Archival Sources

Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, fonds Z4 (XIIth Zionist Congress in Karlovy Vary 1921)

State District Archives Karlovy Vary, fonds Okresní úřad Karlovy Vary, sig. 18/11, box 553

Exhibiting authors

Künstlergabe zum XII. Zionisten Kongress


Publisher: Ewer – Jüdischer Verlag

Place and year of publication: Berlin 1921

Reviews in the press
Samuely Benjamin

Benjamin Samuely, Ein Gang durch die Kunstausstellung, Kongresszeitung. Organ des XII. Zionisten Kongresses, 1921, no. 7, 7. 9., pp. 2–3

Brief notes about the exhibition

Anonymous author, Deutsches Tages-Zeitung. Karlsbader Badeblatt IV, 1921, no. 195, 27. 8., p. 2

Anonymous author, Deutsches Tages-Zeitung. Karlsbader Badeblatt IV, 1921, no. 199, 1. 9., p. 3

Anonymous author, Die Kunst auf dem Kongress, Kongresszeitung. Organ des XII. Zionisten Kongresses, 1921, no. 1, 1. 9., p. 1

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