Jewish Women and Their Salons

The Power of Conversation

Emily D. Bilski and Emily Braun; With contributions by Leon Botstein, Shira Brisman, Barbara Hahn, and Lucia Re

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From their debut in Berlin in the 1780s to their emergence in 1930s California, Jewish women’s salons served as welcoming havens where all classes and creeds could openly debate art, music, literature, and politics. This fascinating book is the first to explore the history of these salons where remarkable women of intellect resolved that neither gender nor religion would impede their ability to bring about social change.
Emily D. Bilski and Emily Braun examine the lives of more than a dozen Jewish salonières, charting the evolution of the salon over time and among cultures, in cities including Berlin, Vienna, Paris, London, New York, and Milan. They show how each woman uniquely adapted the salon to suit her own interests while maintaining the salon’s key characteristics of basic informality and a diversity of guests. Other distinguished contributors to the volume discuss in detail the Berlin salons of the 1800s; the salon in terms of Jewish acculturation and its relation to gender and music; and the relations of Marcel Proust, Oscar Wilde, and Gertrude Stein to the literary salon. The book is enriched with a lavish array of illustrations, including documentary photographs, paintings, drawings, prints, and decorative arts.

Emily D. Bilski is an independent scholar and curator specializing in nineteenth- and twentieth-century art and cultural history. Emily Braun is professor of art history at Hunter College and the Graduate Center at the City University of New York.


McMullen Museum of Art, Boston (August 22 - December 4, 2005)

"A splendid volume of essays. . . . It documents not just the historical milieu but also the courageous morality of these artistic communities." —Elaine Showalter, Times Literary Supplement

"[T]he first book to address the subject of these remarkable women and their impact on society."—NA'AMAT Woman

"The tasteful cover—and the very heft of the book - would lead you to believe that there are lovely illustrations inside; and it's true, there are many, all of them thoughtfully chosen and exquisitely reproduced . . . . While the illustrations are integral—immensely so in this context—they tend to fade a bit in the presence of such a weighty but effortlessly literate explication of the subject."—Robert Leiter, The Jewish Exponent

Winner of the 2005 National Jewish Book Awards in the Visual Arts Category given by the Jewish Book Council
ISBN: 9780300103854
Publication Date: April 11, 2005
Publishing Partner: Published in association with The Jewish Museum, New York
280 pages, 9 x 10
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