A unique collection of 88 signed original drawings by the German-Jewish artist Rosy Lilienfeld, contained within two portfolios created consecutively in 1929 and 1930, illustrating the short stories of Martin Buber's Die Legenden des Baalschem, parts one and two. Together with Lilienfeld's bilingual art book Bilder zu die Legenden des Baalschem/Pictures to the Legend of Baalschem, in which all 33 original drawings from the first portfolio are reproduced, published by the noted press R. Löwit Verlag (Leipzig und Wien, 1935).
Executed in charcoal and pencil on paper, the 12.5 x 9-inch drawings remain in their original 19.5 x 12.5-inch mats, which are signed and dated by the artist and indicate, in typed and handwritten notes, their positions within Lilienfeld's series and Buber's text. They identify the Buber edition from which Lilienfeld worked as Die Legende des Baalschem, Frankfurt: Literarische Anstalt, Rütten und Loening, 1922.
The drawings illustrate 14 legends, originally transmitted orally in Yiddish, that recount the spiritual triumphs and teachings of the founder of modern Chassidism, Rabbi Israel ben Elieser (c. 1700-1760), known as the Baal Schem Tov or “Master of the Good Name.” They depict scenes where the mundane and the phantasmagorical superimpose, tableaux of cosmic struggle and mystical transformation, of ecstasy, sorrow, sympathy and enchantment, in folkloric settings where the natural world embodies human emotions. With dramatic titles such as “The Fire Prince” and “The Martyrs and the Revenge” the tales illuminate moments of awakening and empowerment, where the child Baal Schem might pluck the heart from a demonic werewolf, or allow a dead bride-to-be to rise from her grave and be married.
Lilienfeld's powerful rendition of the Eastern European tales has a dreamlike, almost nostalgic quality-something of memories endowed with magic. Her stylistic choreography endows the suites deeply with a quality of interplay: suggestions of the Expressionists' modern, primal style in the service of powerful Jewish mythos, at a time when the traditional and the modern, history and legend, religious and secular mingled briefly in Frankfurt, before European Jewry was consumed by war. While Lilienfeld did not survive, her work remains a document of that extraordinary moment. Item #16425