The Chronicle ran a piece about a major art acquisition by UC Berkeley of 450 pieces of art by Arthur Szyk. I was just reading it for my interest in art and stumbled across this
The acquisition by what is formally called the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life comes thanks to a $10.1 million donation by Taube Philanthropies, making it the largest single monetary gift to acquire art in the long history of UC Berkeley.
The holding to be known as the Taube Family Arthur Szyk Collection was purchased from collector Rabbi Irvin Ungar of Burlingame. It consists of 450 paintings, drawings and sketches from all stages of Szyk’s career, including the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel. Most of the work has never before been publicly displayed.
Of course, here at the Voice you want the back story on the local angle so I spoke to Rabbi Ungar's son who is a good friend of mine. His dad has assembled this collection over the last 20 years. He gave the groomsmen in his wedding party Szyk pieces as presents in 1975 and that kicked off the collecting bug. Szyk was the second most popular artist in the country post-WWII after Norman Rockwell. Here is his Wikipedia entry where you will see some great examples of his work and read this
The immense popularity Szyk enjoyed in the United States and Europe in his lifetime gradually flagged after his death. From the 1960s to the end of the 1980s, the artist's works were seldom exhibited in American museums. This changed in 1991 when the non-profit organization The Arthur Szyk Society was established in Orange County, California. The founder of the Society, George Gooche, rediscovered Szyk's works and staged the exhibition "Arthur Szyk – Illuminator" in Los Angeles. In 1997, the seat of the Society was transferred to Burlingame, California, and a new Board of Trustees was elected, headed by rabbi, curator and antiquarian Irvin Ungar. The Society's work resulted in staging many exhibitions of Szyk's works in American cities in the 1990s and 2000s. The Society also maintains a large educational website.
I enjoy a collector with real passion and Rabbi Ungar certainly qualifies!