7 Poems & Paintings Art Lesson


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Holocuast Art Lessons

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7 Poems & Paintings Art Lesson

  1. 1. Poet Poem Subject The importance of Primo Levi Shema telling future generations Hayim Gouri Heritage Jewish identity Paul Celan Psalm God and man Pavel Friedman The Butterfly A ghetto poem Wisława Szymborska Could Have Fate and empathy Written in Pencil in the Dan Pagis Multiple themes Sealed Railway-Car First They Came for the Martin Niemöller Bystanders Jews
  2. 2. The painting is filled with three images, two victims in the background and the generation after the Holocaust in the foreground. The future generations to whom the Holocaust has to be conveyed are not represented in the picture. The following points could be addressed: Note the format of the poem. It has three sections with the „Holocaust‟ description wedged between the comfort of a post-war description in the first verse and the severe admonition of the last verse Focus on: The quality victims‟ eyes; the difference in how they are dressed;
  3. 3. Discuss- • Is persecution built into the human condition? • Is ethnic violence endemic? • Does the „globe‟ represent a permanent weight to be borne by the majority of mankind? • Is the painting an optimistic, pessimistic or realistic portrayal of Gouri‟s main message? • What is the artist portraying in the body-language of the victim?
  4. 4. Points for discussion: The relative place of the rose and its guardian thorns The shape of the rose – does it reflect the ambiguity of Celan‟s “no one‟s rose.” Consider the division of the painting created by the location of the rose in the corner and the thorns lying diagonally across the center.
  5. 5. The young poet‟s focus on the butterfly could be addressed in terms of its symbolic power in the context of life in the closed ghetto. The artist‟s portrayal of this poem is very color-oriented. The contrast of dark and bright parallels the flights of optimism and pessimism in the poem. The following points could be discussed: The relative size of the butterfly The position of the butterfly at the edge of the page
  6. 6. The artwork linked to this poem invokes „The Other‟ or the bystander in a graphic portrayal and begs to be discussed in terms of empathy and other emotions. Additional points to be noted: The intensity of the eye-contact The physical contact through an extended hand The sharing of suffering
  7. 7. The framework of the poem is the first universal family on earth and the heart of the poem is the request of the mother to convey a message to her one son that is left unformulated. Several themes emerge from the short lines of the poem; the case of the first murder in the history of mankind, the need to leave testimony, the place and role of mothers in the two tragedies of the first family and the Holocaust itself. Pagis also creates a linear connection of man‟s evil potential from the first murder to the multiple murder of the Holocaust by linking the story of Cain and Abel to the Holocaust through the title of the poem, which is in fact the only place where the Holocaust is alluded to. Consider if any one theme of the poem (see no. 2 above) was uppermost in the artist‟s mind or perhaps they see expression of more than one theme in her painting. The artwork linked to this poem raises the question which “family” is being portrayed, Eve and Abel from the Bible or perhaps the mother and child in the Holocaust context.
  8. 8. Historically, selected groups were not persecuted in the order presented in the poem. The weight of the war against Jews carried special moral significance for some clergymen and this is reflected in the order of the groups Niemöller presents. The painting linked to this poem invokes a timeless depiction of persecution. The vague nature of violence and the dread of the threat are present in the painting. It is important to note that the focus of the painter gives prominence to the perpetrators and the viewer could feel himself as a potential victim. This angle is invaluable for creating an appreciation of the underdog.