Thursday, August 6, 2020 -
Print Edition

Arthur Gilbert: Holocaust art is ‘Rolodex of emotional snapshots’

Prof. Arthur Gilbert pointing to a Holocaust etching by Sigmund Laufer.DU’s Prof. Arthur Gilbert, whose demeanor and attire evoke Zorba the Greek, interrupts the early morning quiet at the Merage and Allon Hillel Center with a sustained chuckle — the first of many.

Freely acknowledging that the images he’s assembled here are the antithesis of amusing, Gilbert justifies his upbeat mood.

“I don’t have the right to be depressed,” he says. “I haven’t earned it.”

“Children in the Holocaust: The Fine Art Print Collection of Arthur Gilbert,” which continues through June 9, commemorates the Holocaust, pays homage to the collector’s instinct and aids impoverished survivors in Eastern Europe.

The 26 prints displayed in the Hillel exhibition represent artists as disparate as Sigmund Laufer, Mary S. Costanza, Dr. David Crown, Leopoldo Mendez, Samuel Bak, Leo Haas and Jacob Landau.

Over the past several decades, Gilbert, 76, has amassed 700 works of fine art — “a visual feast” — on a professor’s salary.

Three years ago his aesthetic attention suddenly slammed into the Holocaust.

“It happened quite by accident,” Gilbert explains rather cheerfully. “I was at an art auction in Provincetown, Mass., where art is all about people on the beach and lovely fishing scenes.

“My wife Kathy came up to me and said, ‘Arthur, I think you better take a look at this.’

“There was a Holocaust etching by Sigmund Laufer — I had never heard of him,” he laughs. “I bought it because nobody buys Holocaust art on Cape Cod. Why would you want to be depressed while you’re at the beach?”

Gilbert paid a conservative sum for the etching. He left with an acquisition that soon evolved into an avocation.

“I knew there must be more Holocaust fine prints hidden away,” he says. “I launched an intensive search for more Holocaust art, and found it in the most unimaginable places. I’m a good hunter.”

The subject matter is bitter, and often unbearable. Yet Gilbert regards the quest for Holocaust-themed art “as an amazing journey. I’ve met fascinating people — artists, friends.”

The rest of this article is available in the IJN’s print edition only. Contact Carol to order your copy at (303) 861-2234 or email

Andrea Jacobs

IJN Senior Writer |

Leave a Reply