Washington University's Modern Graphic History Library (MGHL) presents the exhibition Enjoyment in Libraries with the Candid Pencil of David Friedman this spring, with a series of portrait sketches by the Czechoslovakian artist, portrait painter, and sign-painter on display in Olin Library's Grand Staircase Lobby and Ginkgo Reading Room from Wednesday, April 9, through the end of July.
A survivor of the Holocaust, Friedman (1893-1980) spent his life recording the world around him. After settling in St. Louis in 1956, he began to work on a series of paintings that recreated what he had seen and experienced in the ghettos and camps. While working on the series, it was his trips to the library that offered him essential relief from the anguish and misery of his memories.
"I needed to forget about the concentration campus and the horror that was there," Friedman once said. "So it was a pleasure to go to the library."
As he did so, he sketched more than 100 portraits in seven different libraries throughout St. Louis between 1962 and 1967. More than 60 of those portraits, along with photographs of Washington University libraries from the time period, are on display, drawn from the MGHL’s recently acquired David Friedman Collection.
The choice to juxtapose Friedman’s work with old photographs from University Archives, depicting scenes inside WU library facilities, seems especially appropriate as National Library Week gets underway next week, notes MGHL curator Skye Lacerte.
"It's an opportunity to celebrate how libraries have universally served as a place of knowledge, inspiration, and comfort to people from all walks of life," she says.
A digital companion to the physical exhibition is online at https://omeka.wustl.edu/omeka/exhibits/show/davidfriedman/home. For more information, contact the MGHL at 314-935-7741.