7: Illustration, Jacob Epstein's "Gitl" in Hutchins Hapgood's “The Spirit of the Ghetto,” 1902.
In 1902, Hutchins Hapgood (1869-1944), a non-Jewish, Harvard-educated author and journalist who was raised in the Midwest, published The Spirit of the Ghetto, containing his attempts to understand and interpret Jewish immigrant life and society in New York. His profile of Abraham Cahan in the book includes a description of the novel Yekl and this illustration of Gitl, drawn by Jacob Epstein (1880-1959), himself a New York native and the son of of Polish-Jewish immigrants. Illustrating The Spirit of the Ghetto was Epstein's first major commission—he would eventually settle in London and become one of the most lauded portrait sculptors of the twentieth century.
Suggested Activity: Have students first create their own illustrations of Gitl, or write down a description of the character and how they might expect to portray her in a picture. Then, invite them to compare their illustrations, or descriptions, to this one. Ask students if they think this portrait exoticizes Gitl or depicts her in a realistic light, if they think it represents her as powerful or disempowered, and if they think it is accurate to the descriptions of Gitl in the story. What do you think Epstein hopes readers will learn about immigrant culture from this image of Gitl?
Source: Jacob Epstein, "Gitl," in Hutchins Hapgood, The Spirit of the Ghetto (New York: Funk and Wagnalls Company, 1902), 250.