Jews had little access to major portrait painters prior to the Enlightenment and
the subsequent emancipation of Jewish in Europe. That situation changed dramatically
beginning in the 19th century, when Jewish patrons commissioned dazzling pictures
from some of the greatest artists in Western Europe and North America. The disarming
painting of Baroness Betty de Rothschild by Jean Auguste-Dominique Ingres, the
flickering image of Auguste Renoir's double portrait of the Cahen d'Anvers daughters,
John Singer Sargent's magisterial presentation of Asher Wertherimer, and Gustav
Klimt's extravagant likeness of Adele Bloch Bauer serve as wonderful examples.
Norman Kleeblatt will trace this rich trajectory of commissioned portraits through
Pablo Picasso's defiant images of Gertrude Stein and Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler.
With these two radical depictions, Picasso challenged the validity of naturalistic--and
idealized--representation. With them, he and his adventuresome Jewish sitters
denied the authenticity and meaning of the commissioned portrait.
Norman Kleeblatt has been The Jewish Museum's Susan and Elihu
Rose Curator of Fine Arts since 1981. Included among the exhibitions Mr. Kleeblatt
organized are The Dreyfus Affair: Art, Truth and Justice (1987), Painting
a Place in America: Jewish Artists in New York, 1900-1945 (1991), and Too
Jewish?: Challenging Traditional Identities (1996)—an exhibition
of works by contemporary American artists who confronted Jewish stereotypes
head on as they probed issues of assimilation. Mirroring Evil: Nazi Imagery/Recent
Art, Mr. Kleeblatt's groundbreaking exhibition of 2002, highlighted the
work of 13 international artists who appropriate Nazi imagery as a commentary
on contemporary values. He is currently working on an exhibition that examines
the competitive impact of the critics Clement Greenberg and Harold Rosenberg
on the emergence of Abstract Expressionism in America.