Andy Warhol Jewish Show Gets 15 More Minutes of Fame in Milwaukee

Pop Artist Was Accused of Pandering With Portraits

Why a Jew? A detail from Andy Warhol’s portrait of the Marx Brothers, currently on display at the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee.
Courtesy of Jewish Museum of Milwaukee
Why a Jew? A detail from Andy Warhol’s portrait of the Marx Brothers, currently on display at the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee.

By Laura Hodes

Published March 13, 2014, issue of March 21, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

Famously, Warhol quipped that he selected these particular Jews because he “liked their faces.” But there’s more to it than that. The Jews he chose came from immigrant backgrounds; all of their parents or grandparents made their living by their hands; they were butchers, carpenters, mechanics, grain merchants (except for Martin Buber, who broke with the religiosity of his grandfather, a talmudic scholar, to pursue secular studies and moved away from his homeland). Yet these 10 (or 12 if you consider the three Marx brothers included in one portrait) forged new paths by creating for themselves a rich, creative life of the mind.

Warhol himself had Roman Catholic parents who came from Czechoslovakia and grew up in working-class Pittsburgh, Pa. As Kynaston McShine writes in “Andy Warhol, A Retrospective,” “from an early age, he seems to have been interested in adopting another identity, having experienced the problems of being himself — of being linguistically, culturally and religiously different.”

In his early works, he was drawn to “metaphors of metamorphosis and self-transcendence,” portraying Superman, who transforms himself from Clark Kent, and Popeye, who becomes a new man by eating spinach. Like Warhol, these 10 Jews were able to transform themselves on a remarkable level and create their own individual paths to fame by sheer intelligence and determination, not by inheritance.

Warhol’s attraction to Meir makes the Jewish Museum Milwaukee a fitting site to exhibit his prints. Indeed, Meir’s presence hovers over the entire museum like a floating figure in a Chagall painting. When you enter the museum, you first see an enormous hanging tapestry created by Chagall in 1973. On the upper right of the tapestry are two female faces. The museum notes quote Chagall: “In painting the woman, I have thought of the women of the Bible, of Madame Golda Meir, and of all the valiant women of the earth.”

The Chagall tapestry sets up surprising resonances for the Warhol exhibit. When you enter the room where the prints are displayed, you immediately see two windows, each broken into four squares or rectangles of bright blue, red, yellow and purple. These windows evoke Chagall’s stained-glass windows. In turn, the colors of Warhol’s prints (except for the austere grays of the Einstein portrait) mirror those that Chagall uses in his stained glass windows. In Warhol’s Buber portrait, the philosopher’s face suggests Chagall’s prophet figure.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.