Tułacze (The Tired Ones). Leopold Pilichowski, before 1903. Postcard reproduction of a popular painting by the artist, published by Kunstverlag Phönix, Berlin. (YIVO)

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Pilichowski, Leopold

(1869–1933), painter. Born in Piła near Sieradz, Poland, Leopold Pilichowski received his early Jewish education in his native village and then studied art in Łódź. There he spent time in the company of the painter Szmul Hirszenberg (to whom he was related) and the Hebrew writer David Frishman. Pilichowski continued his studies at the Art Academy in Munich and later at the Academy Julian in Paris. In France he painted portraits, Parisian street scenes, and nocturnes, and in 1891 exhibited a painting entitled Pierwsze jesienne liście (First Leaves of Autumn).

In 1894, Pilichowski held his first exhibition in Łódź. He settled there again and around 1895 painted his first works with Jewish themes. In particular, Robotnik—farbiarz wełny (A [Jewish] Wool-dyer; ca. 1895, National Museum in Warsaw) and Dolce far niente (Sweet Idleness; ca. 1895) capture the poverty of Jews in that city. A commitment to social commentary led him to portray Jewish peddlers, immigrants, and wanderers in moments of rest at a railway station, leaning against a wall in despair, or slumbering on the steps in front of a building. Titles from this cycle include his Na dworcu kolejowym (On the Railway Station, or Emigrants; before 1901, Art Museum, Łódź), Spokój (Rest; before 1903), and Tułacze (The Tired Ones; before 1903). This style of painting culminated in Pilichowski’s Pietá (before 1911), showing a Jew in mourning sitting on the ground next to the shrouded body of a pogrom victim. Pilichowski also depicted traditional Jewish customs revolving around prayer and study. Przy Talmudzie (At Talmud) and W swobodnyem czasu (In a Free Moment), both before 1903, show impoverished Jews in moments of dignity, deeply involved in studying religious texts. He portrayed festivals and holy days in his Sukot (Sukkot; 1894–1895, Jewish Museum, New York) and Jom Kipur (Yom Kippur; before 1910).

From 1908 on, Pilichowski was an active Zionist, and he painted portraits of Max Nordau, Naḥum Sokolow, Ahad Ha-Am, and Ḥayim Naḥman Bialik. His most famous portrait (now in the Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem) shows Theodore Herzl standing on a mountaintop as if staring into the Promised Land. Pilichowski’s symbolic Drzewo wolności (Freedom Tree; 1911) shows European Jewish immigrants gathered round a cypress tree in the hills of Jerusalem. In 1925, he visited Palestine, where he painted his Otwarcie Uniwersytetu w Jerozolimie (Opening of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem), a group portrait showing more than 120 people, including himself. In 1914 after traveling back and forth from Łódź to Paris, Pilichowski moved to London where he painted Whitechapel’s impoverished Jews. He was president of the organization of Polish Jews in London, and of the Ben Uri Art Society (1926–1932).

Suggested Reading

Richard I. Cohen, Jewish Icons, Art and Society in Modern Europe (Berkeley, 1998); Susan Tumarkin Goodman, ed., The Emergence of Jewish Artists in Nineteenth-Century Europe (New York, 2001); Jerzy Malinowski, Malarstwo i rzeźba Żydów Polskich w XIX i XX wieku (Warsaw, 2000).