Early Life in Poland

1894 - 1914


Photographer Unknown (undated) Arthur Szyk with his brother and Parents. Place unknown.

Arthur Szyk is born.

On June 3, 1894 Arthur Szyk is born to Solomon and Eugenia Szyk in Łódź, Poland. His father is the owner of a textile factory.


Arthur Szyk, 1909. Drawing of Soldier from Earliest Known Sketchbook Images. Lódź

Arthur Szyk’s earliest drawings.

It is believed that Szyk’s earliest drawings were at age 6 of the Boxer Rebellion in China. The earliest surviving examples of Arthur Szyk’s work come from his 1909 Łódź sketchbook. At age 15, these works already show the keen-eyed observation skills, a sense of rhythm through repetition, and a feel for tone and volume that are featured in his later work.




Eiffel Tower and Park, 1909.

Arthur Szyk attends the Académie Julian in Paris.

Szyk moves to Paris to study at the Académie Julian, a private art school, that taught studio-based instruction. It was one of the best art schools in Paris at the time, and attracted students from all over the world (image source).


1909 - 1913



Diego Rivera, 1909. Notre Dame de Paris, Paris

Szyk studies among famous fellow students.

Among Szyk’s fellow students during his time at the Académie Julian were Diego Rivera, Jean Arp, and Thomas Hart Benton.

Notre Dame de Paris (1909) was completed by Diego Rivera while he studied in Paris at the Académie Julian.  Like Szyk, Rivera’s work was driven by his political ideals, and the need to make the world a better – and more just – place.


1909 - 1913

Arthur Szyk, 1912. Cover illustration for Smiech. Paris

Arthur Szyk contributes political cartoons and caricatures to publications in Poland.

While studying in Paris, Szyk regularly sent political cartoons and caricatures back to publications in Poland. This image, for the paper Smiech (which means smile), shows a comical representation of a theater dispute between directors and the audience in Lódź. Szyk shows them shooting words at each other from cannons on the roof of the Teatr Lodzki.





Arthur Szyk, 1913. Images from Krakow sketchbook. Krakow

Arthur Szyk returns to Poland.

He begins studying art with internationally recognized Polish artist Teodor Axtentowicz, who was known for his political and national ideals.

Szyk’s  sketchbooks from this time provide rare surviving examples of his early works, as well as indicating how he developed his practice through observation and experimentation.





Arthur Szyk, 1914. Palestine Pioneer. Palestine.

Arthur Szyk visits Palestine as part of a cultural study tour.

Palestine Pioneer features a man carrying a basket on his back. The work shows Szyk’s developing abilities, as the viewer clearly feels the weight of his load.

World War I broke out while Szyk was in Palestine. As a Russian citizen he was required to return to Poland immediately.






Arthur Szyk , 1915. Postcard depicting Russian Soldiers. Lódź

Arthur Szyk is drafted into the Russian army during World War I.

He served on the German front and fought in the Battle of Lódź, and produced a number of postcards showing battle-weary Russian soldiers. In this example, an injured soldier leans on his comrade, his heavily bandaged leg raised, and his arm in a sling. Both soldiers gaze wearily out of the left side of the frame. Their ill-fitting uniforms, and the portrait-like depiction of their faces individualizes their suffering. It is as if Szyk knew their experiences, and through them comments on the suffering of war.



Explore Arthur Szyk's life and times through his art