Only in our days has the visual art of our people blossomed in unexpected splendor. Our tribe (…) began to create artists. And one by one these artists turned toward the destiny of their people. They did not only express the soul of our tribe in their creations externally, in materials and themes, the Jewish character was also deeply embedded in the perception and form of these works. (…)
During his lifetime a tender, young artistic life shot up but soon died. I am speaking of [Maurycy] Gottlieb, who died at age twenty-three. He was a chosen bearer of our people’s tragedy as if the spirit of our history bestowed on him the kiss of suffering and death. Once he painted himself as Ahasverus with a golden band across his forehead. And the kingdom of wandering and of pain possessed his soul. He came too early. He felt the new Judaism (Zionism) before it existed. He was a herald type, and his fate was the fate of the herald who dies all too soon, who is not blessed to behold the Promised Land himself. His Jewish paintings, of which I wish to mention The Praying Jews on Yom Kippur, Shylock and Jessica, Uriel Acosta and Judith, are monuments on our journey. We love his young, struggling, melancholy figure. We identify with his struggle and his suffering. May his memory be a blessing.
(Martin Buber, “Address on Jewish Art”, 1901)
“[Maurycy] Gottlieb was a Jewish artist in the full sense of the word. All of his works bear the imprint of the people to which he belonged, the unhappy fate of his people, its endless suffering, was always with him, and formed an integral part of his life.” (…) For this reason, above all, his death was a tragedy not only for European art, and not only for his family and friends, but “caused sadness and pain to all thinking Jews.”
(Cytowane za Ezra Mendelson, Painting a People: Maurycy Gottlieb and Jewish Art, 2002)