By Ruth Halvey with Jonah Horwitz
As a man and as an artist, William S. Schwartz lived in uneasy relation to the tumultuous and shifting contexts of the time and place that he lived in.
On a shallow level, he was an early twentieth-century immigrant who found success in America and came to embrace its values and way of life as his own. Digging deeper, however, the frictions and schisms of his identity which make his story much more meaningfully illustrative of the era through which he passed become apparent. He was the product of a downtrodden blue-collar city in the Pale who eschewed all leftist sympathies for a love of the classic virtues of Middle America.
He was a Jew who oscillated wildly between exploring the complexities of his cultural background in his work and denying the influence of that background altogether.
While growing up in Smorgon, a dismal industrial city on the outskirts of the Russian Empire, William S. Schwartz nursed grandiose ambitions for a future as a famous artist. He was completely unfazed by the unlikelihood of a poor Jewish boy finding fame and fortune, and his characteristic overconfidence made his goals seem within reach. It was only when a teenage Schwartz arrived on Ellis Island in 1913 that he realized success would not come easily.
Just as the city’s artistic and cultural worlds were achieving international recognition, Schwartz, then in his twenties, had become an eminent artist in Chicago.
As a painter, he won respect from both the avant-garde subculture and the institutional arbiters of artistic merit. As an opera singer, he earned a handsome living and accolades for his musical and theatrical gifts. And his eccentric personality, glamorous socialite companion Mona Turner and knack for lively entertaining assured his popularity in intellectual and bohemian circles.
This book covers Schwartz’s life and artistic work from early in his career to his later years in Chicago. Photos and over 180 images of his paintings, prints and sculpture are included as well a copy of his notebooks which detail his artistic output from early in his career until his death.