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He Cast a Look and Went Mad

Maurycy Minkowski (Polish, 1881-1930)

He Cast a Look and Went Mad, 1910

  • Oil on canvas
  • 43 x 52 1/2 in. (109.2 x 133.4 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Gift of Mrs. Rose Mintz, JM 14-75

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He Cast a Look and Went Mad

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He Cast a Look and Went Mad

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As in the Oppenheim, here Polish artist Maurycy Minkowski addresses the relation between tradition and modernity. Click here to learn more about Minkowski’s painting He Cast a Look and Went Mad. After discussing this work with students, ask them to compare it with Oppenheim’s Return of the Jewish Volunteer.

Discuss:

  • How are these paintings similar in terms of their themes and the conflicts they explore?
    [Both deal with conflicts between religious and secular life and between old traditions and modern ways.]

  • In what way are the artists’ approaches to storytelling different? Which painting do you think conveys the conflicts more subtly? How so?

  • What might be some advantages of communicating a story subtly? What might be some drawbacks to this approach?
    [One advantage is that it might prevent the painting from coming across as didactic, or intending to teach a lesson. Another advantage is that it encourages viewers to engage deeply with the work of art and spend more time studying it. A possible disadvantage is that the painting could fail to communicate its message.]


The Talmudists

Max Weber (American, b. Russia, 1881-1961)

The Talmudists, 1934

  • Oil on canvas
  • 50 1/8 x 34 in. (127.3 x 86.4 cm)
  • The Jewish Museum, New York
  • Gift of Mrs. Nathan Miller, JM 51-48

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The Talmudists

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The Talmudists



Max Weber’s painting The Talmudists depicts a scene of traditional Jewish life. After discussing this work with students, ask them to compare it with Oppenheim’s Return of the Jewish Volunteer in the following ways:

  • Compare the composition of Oppenheim’s Return of the Jewish Volunteer with that of The Talmudists by Max Weber. Compare the placement of the figures within each work. What is the focal point of each composition? Compare how the two artists represent three-dimensional space.
    [The focus of Weber’s painting is in the center, where the viewer’s eyes rest on the two men looking at the orange book with its cover toward us. The artist uses a pyramidal composition. In the Oppenheim painting, the off-center focus creates a certain amount of drama. Weber uses the conceit that the area of the picture plane that is higher up connotes a space that is farther away. He tilts the plane of the ground and table to let us see all the characters. Oppenheim’s construction of space resembles a stage set in that we see most of the characters spread out across the scene in a close-up view.]

  • Compare Oppenheim’s application of paint—his brushwork—with Weber’s.
    [Oppenheim’s is smooth and detailed. The individual brushstrokes are not evident in most of the composition; Weber’s brushstrokes are looser, more gestural and textural. These distinctions are best observed when standing in front of the paintings and may not be as easily discernable from reproductions.]