Monday, November 10, 2008

Finding an artist

Last week a fellow librarian asked a question about an artist that she had scant information. Here is her question:
I have a group of pen and ink drawings by the Israeli artist David that I want to donate to a local group. They would like to know something about the artist. Each drawing is from a different book of the bible, all from KETUVIM (Writings), JONAH, RUTH, ECCLESIASTES, ETC. Does anyone know what I am talking about and can tell me about the artist? A google search has not been fruitful.
Since I knew the answer right away with just a moment to double check my memory, I wondered if others would know the answer. Of all the people I asked over Shabbat, no one remembered the book that contained these drawings. Then I posed the question to my students in a reference class. I wanted to know how they would approach solving this problem. None of the students had an answer. Do I have special knowledge or just a very focused memory?

Let's examine the question to figure out what is known and what one needs to know to figure out the answer. 1) We know the drawing are pen and ink, but there is no way to search by type of drawing. Let's use this information later.
2) The author has "David" in his name. We don't know if this is his first name or family name.
Since the librarian said the artist was Israeli, one can surmise the article signed the drawing with Hebrew letters. But that may not be correct. A search of "david" as a family name in the Encyclopedia Judaica or using Google does not help with the answer. There are too many hits on "david" as a first name to be of use.

3) We know the drawing or from books of the Ketuvim section of the Bible. The question only includes three of the books. Had the question included all the book represented in the drawing this would be easier to answer. This is a case of: read this list and tell be what does not belong. All books listed are read in the synagogue some time in the year. All are from one section of the BIble. However, there is no easy connection for these three titles. Perhaps if the questioner listed all the books prepresented, the search would be easier. If we say "Jonah" does not belong in the list, we are left with
"Ruth, Ecclesiastes, etc." From the question we have no idea how many books are represented by "etc." We ask what Ruth and Ecclesiastes have in common. They are part of the "five scrolls or hamash megillot." If we search "five scrolls" "hamash megillot" AND "jonah" will find so clese matched, but none that fill all the requirements. If you search five megilloth and jonah david The first hit will point you to the book: The Five Megilloth and Jonah, by H. L. Ginsberg (foreword), Ismar David (illustrator). This book is out of print, but it is on my shelf.

Looking at the book we can see the each of the Biblical books has a pen and ink drawing by Ismar David. I remember that the publisher, JPS, sold the drawings in a portfolio. This portfolio containing the drawings on heavy paper is most likely what the original questioner has. Searching Ismar David will point to a whole book on his life and work:
The Work of Ismar David, by Helen Brandshaft, David Pankow; Contributor Helen Brandshaft. Published by RIT Cary Graphic Arts Press, 2005. There is also a web site with a short bio of Ismar David.

1 comment:

Daniel Stuhlman said...

I love reading the steps in the deliberate reference search that was successful in finding the answer (even though you already knew it-- as I should have done since our shul uses that volume, my library has that volume, and I have one at home!! I think I wasn't paying enough attention to the original question.)

Reference work is wonderful, whether or not people understand that it is a result of professional study, and is an actual, useful skill. ("What does she do all day? How come all the new books aren't cataloged right away?)

And of course I love the "office" exchange! Amazing! (Sigh, the reference interview didn't work in this case :-). )

On the bright side, I've received 4 thank you notes, 2 with donations, in the past week or two. Very warming.

Thank you,

Madeleine Cohen Oakley
Director of Library Services
Adas Israel Congregation
Washington, DC