Bildnis Theodor Herzl.
[Portrait of Theodor Herzl].
Hermann Struck (1876-1944) and Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) met several times in Egypt and Vienna before this portrait etching was created in 1903. A fervent Zionist and admirer of Herzl's, Struck made his preparatory sketches for the portrait when he visited the political activist's house in Vienna. During the sixth Zionist Congress in Basel in August 1903, the two met again and on this occasion Herzl asked Struck to allow him to sign a few of the first copies of the etching.
Struck depicted Herzl's visionary side by giving us the impression that he is looking towards the future. Although Struck made two additional etchings of this portrait after Herzl's death, it is the 1903 version that has remained the most famous, and the most iconic of all the portraits of Theodor Herzl. Indeed, the image came to be one of the emblems of Zionism and has been used on various posters, products and catalogues ever since: 'Within a short period of time the etching became so well known that it emerged as a symbol of Zionism, especially after the death of the charismatic leader in 1904. It was then that the portrait won the respect of all the Zionist circles. By the time the State of Israel was founded, this portrait of Theodor Herzl was considered the epitome of Zionism itself. It decorated the walls of every Zionist event, anywhere' (Hermann Struck, Printmaking Artist. Tefen Open Museum, 2007, p.38).
Hermann Struck was a German-Israeli artist who gained fame for his etchings. He published a leading work on the subject, Die Kunst des Radierens, in 1908. He was commissioned to etch portraits of many leading figures of his time, including Einstein and Herzl. Struck acquired a reputation as a teacher of graphic art, and began to teach the techniques of the art print while still in Germany. Among his many students were Max Liebermann, Lovis Corinth, Marc Chagall, Jacob Steinhardt, and Joseph Budko. He moved to Haifa in 1922. Today the city has a museum dedicated to him.
Theodor Herzl, a Hungarian journalist of Jewish descent, is regarded as the founding father of political Zionism. By the time the etching was made, he was already known for having chaired the first Zionist congress in 1897. In 1896, at 35 years old, he had published Der Judenstaat, Versuch einer Modernen Lösung der Judenfrage (The Jewish State, Proposal of a modern solution for the Jewish question) in Vienna. The previous year, Herzl had witnessed the Dreyfus affair in Paris and had been appalled at the outbreak of anti-Semitism that it had generated in the 'birthplace of human rights'. He came to the conclusion that the creation of an independent Jewish state during the twentieth century would be the best way for Jews to escape European anti-Semitism.
Soft ground etching; 60.5 x 50.5 cm (framed); artist's signature in the plate to lower right of etching, with his Hebrew name beneath (Haim Aaron ben David); Theodor Herzl's signature in pencil to margin lower right; to lower left of margin a star of David with Hermann Struck's initials therein, his signature in pencil to the right; closed tears to margin expertly repaired, mounted on acid-free tissue, and framed.
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