- Lilien's Sensual Beauties: Discovering Jewish Orientalism in Ephraim Moses Lilien's Biblical Women
- Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues
- Indiana University Press
- Number 33, Spring 5779/2018
- pp. 90-120
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Ephraim Moses Lilien (1874–1925) is widely recognised as the most important artist of the cultural Zionist movement at the turn of the twentieth century. Since 2001, scholarship on Lilien has focused less on his Zionist iconology and more on his construction and imaging of a "new [male] Jew" who was muscular, manly and healthy in body, mind and spirit. In addition to these Jewish depictions of male athleticism, heroism and explicit heterosexuality, there are perplexing and ambivalent portrayals of the "New Jewish Woman" as the passive, naked, sensual and provocative, femme fatale. This article examines Lilien's seductive female images to counter the gendered narrative regarding his oeuvre. What emerges in a few of these depictions is a powerful, strong and very modern Jewish woman, an equal partner to the new Jewish man. Lilien's representations of women created for Das Lied der Lieder are analyzed and compared with the secular images he created in two other works, Juda and Lieder des Ghetto. Lilien's images are then evaluated in light of contemporaneous illustrations in the new area of the graphic arts: book art and the illustrated art journal. Using Lilien's images for the journals Jugend and Mai-Festzeitung as a starting point, contemporary illustrations are examined to assess just how radical Lilien's image of a dangerously modern Jewish woman was for this period. As his work progressed, Lilien discovered a Jewish Oriental style that celebrated both his Jewish roots and his acculturated modern German-Jewish identity.