Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History



First Advisor

Baskind, Samantha

Subject Headings

Art Criticism; Art History; History; Judaic Studies


In July of 1966, Harold Rosenberg published his often-cited article, “Is There a Jewish Art?.” Rosenberg’s inquiry continues to spark debate on the existence and merit of labeling art as Jewish. Rather than attempting to provide an answer for the question posed by his article, this thesis instead contemplates the ways in which Judaism might shape an artist’s body of work, in particular, that of Social Realist Painter Moses Soyer. Considering that many of the most notable American Social Realist painters of the twentieth-century share a common Jewish ancestry, it is important to analyze the possible significance of their shared heritage. Therefore, this thesis examines the work of Moses Soyer in conjunction with the American Jewish experience. The first chapter focuses on Soyer’s early years, which I argue are instrumental to his later works of art. The second chapter concentrates on Soyer’s political activism, that is, his involvement in leftist politics, which relates to several important Jewish values. The final chapter analyzes the artist’s numerous portraits of dancers, which also align with the Jewish experience in America during the 1930s and 1940s.