Thursday, December 14, 2006

Judaism, Eroticism, and Zionism - the art of E.M. Lilien

Many of my postings here have been accompanied by vivid pen and ink illustrations. These dreamy, evocative images are the work of Austrian illustrator and photographer, Ephraim Moses Lilien (Born 1874 in Galicia - died 1925). Lilien was one of the most influential Jewish artists of the 20th Century and a founding father of the Bezalel Art School in Jerusalem. As part of the Jungenstil (“Youth-Style”) art movement, he produced innumerable periodical and book illustrations, bookplates and posters. His work illustrating the three-volume Die Bucher der Bibel with a series of bold, moody and - at times - erotic images both shocked and delighted readers and ensured his fame.

He was a member of the Zionist movement and undertook several journeys to Palestine and the Middle East between 1906 and 1918. While there he produced a series of exquisite photographs of traditional Jews and Arabs, some of which have become iconic images of Ottoman-era Palestine. His photograph of Theodore Herzl in profile, fixing a visionary gaze on an unseen horizon, is perhaps the most famous image of the Zionist thinker and activist. Herzl's face also pops up in a number of Lilien's illustrations, usually as an angel.

Lilien’s work often re-conceptualized Judaism in mythic and esoteric terms. A classic example of this is his illustration of the “Sabbath Queen” which appears in my first posting.

To see more of Lilien's work, visit the "Lilien Study Group" on the Web.


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