“Identity, Art and Migration” investigates the experience of seven Jewish European artists who were forced to abandon their country of origin, or remain in hiding for years, in response to Nazi policies in effect from 1933 to 1945. These six artists: Anni Albers, Friedel Dzubas, Eva Hesse, Rudi Lesser, Lily Renée and Arthur Szyk emigrated to the United States, while one, Fritz Ascher, stayed behind in Germany, hiding in a basement for three years.

These artists’ lives and work address the multi-layered concept of identity and the particulars of its expression from slightly different angles. We invite you to explore with us how these wrenching experiences affected their sense of who they were, and the art they made.

The Historical Context

Time and Place

The following infographic presents an overview of the lives of the 7 artists, when they lived, and when their migration took place.

Our Invitation

As you explore, please consider these questions: What defines human identity? DNA? Language? Culture? Landscape? Polity? Or is it a combination of them all? How do these factors affect refugees and immigrants, who must try —not merely to adapt— but to become fully comfortable within their new home?

How do artists, with their particular set of sensibilities —and who are purveyors of, respondents to, and shapers of culture— transfer the diverse identity norms of the worlds they leave behind to the new worlds into which they arrive? Can they translate from one language of images to another?

Please share your thoughts, and similar stories if you have them, on our Facebook page or message us on Instagram.

Watch the Conversations

The Pencil and the Sword. How Lily Renée (1921 –currently living in NYC) Put her Art to Work Against the Nazis

Featuring Sabine Apostolo and Michael Freund Jewish Museum Vienna, Austria

January 5, 2022

Conference: Artists Migrating to the United States, In and Beyond the Nazi Period

Featuring Rebecca Erbelding, PhD, Katya Grokhovsky, and Ori Z Soltes, PhD

December 15, 2021

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