The Melting Pot: Russian Jewish New York

Case 5: Artists: Simon Lissim > Introduction

SIMON LISSIM, 1900-1981

A painter, designer, illustrator, ceramist, stage designer, and art educator, he is considered a master. His works were exhibited in Europe and America in an almost continuous series of one-man shows.  They have been included in the permanent collections of many museums all around the world. In the Paris of the 1920s-1930s, he was a notable figure, closely involved with the circle of the Russian theatre world, with Diaghilev, Baliev, Bakst, Benois, and many others. He settled in New York City in 1941, where he launched into another important activity, that of art education. He was appointed in 1942 head of the Art Education Project in the New York Public Library and crowned this aspect of his career by becoming in due course Professor of Art at the City College of the City University of New York. But educational work did not deter him from continuing with his creative work, and indeed some of his finest design work and paintings were executed during these years: gold and silver designs, ceramic designs, and an outstanding series of gouaches.  In 1960 Simon Lissim was elected a vice-president of the British Royal Society of Arts. He was the first foreigner ever to be named an officer of the 206-year-old Society.

“Simon Lissim, who belonged unmistakably to the twentieth century, was nevertheless a modern example of Renaissance man, for his achievements were spread over a wide spectrum with theatrical décor at one end and porcelain designs at the other. Between were paintings in gouache and scraperboard, and designs for crystal, cutlery and jewellery.” --   Raymond Lister

Materials displayed in this case are from the Simon Lissim Papers donated
to the Bakhmeteff Archive by Simon Lissim in 1981 and by Dorothea Waples Lissim in 1982.


Rare Book & Manuscript Library / Butler Library, 6th Fl. East / 535 West 114th St. / New York, NY 10027 / (212) 854-5153 /