Gottlieb, Maurycy

views updated


GOTTLIEB, MAURYCY (1856–1879), Polish painter. Born in Drohobycz, in eastern Galicia, he was the son of a prosperous owner of an oil refinery. At the age of 13, he studied at the art school in Lemberg, and three years later at the Vienna Academy. Later, under the influence of his teacher at the Cracow Academy, professor Jan Matejko, an ardent champion of Polish nationalism, Gottlieb turned from German to Polish subject matter. Gottlieb was subjected to antisemitic taunts, and painted a self-portrait called "Ahasuerus," which referred to the legend of the Wandering Jew who was shunned by everyone. In 1876 he received a prize at Munich for his painting, "Shylock and Jessica." The noted publisher Bruckmann then commissioned him to make 12 illustrations for a deluxe edition of Lessing's drama Nathan der Weise. Yielding to antisemitic pressure, Bruckmann canceled the commission after seven of the illustrations had been finished. Gottlieb's next major work, "Jews Praying on the Day of Atonement," was stimulated by his studying Heinrich *Graetz᾽sHistory of the Jews. The picture caused a sensation in Jewish circles, and the Jewish press hailed it as a genuinely Jewish masterpiece. With the aid of a Viennese patron, Gottlieb went to Rome, where he again met his teacher Matejko, who greeted him as "the most hopeful disciple of Polish art, whom I greet as my successor." After a few months in Rome, Gottlieb went back to Cracow, where he died at the age of 23. Considering the fact that Gottlieb's career covered only four or five years, his extant work is remarkable both in quality and quantity. "Shylock and Jessica" is so well and richly painted that the theatricality of the scene is overlooked, and "Jews Praying on the Day of Atonement" (which embodies a self-portrait) is an indisputable masterpiece. Gottlieb was also an excellent portraitist. His portraits are gems of psychological penetration in an era that often beautified and falsified its sitters. His portraits of girls and elderly women have delicacy, lightness of touch, and charm.

Maurycy's younger brother leopold gottlieb (1883–1934), the 13th child of the Gottlieb family, studied in Cracow, Munich, and Paris, and for a while taught at the Bezalel School in Jerusalem. During World War i he was a lieutenant in the Polish Legion, and thereafter fought under Pilsudski in Poland's War of Independence. Among the numerous personalities who sat for him for portraits were Pilsudski and the writer Sholem Asch.


M. Narkiss (ed.), Maurycy Gottlieb, Iggerot ve-Divrei Yoman (1955); Polski Słownik Biograficzny, 8 (1959–60), 386–7; Roth, Art, 556–62, 808–10.

[Alfred Werner]