The Papercut Haggadah by Archie Granot

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A Unique Haggadah Masterpiece

The Haggadah, the telling of the story of the Jewish holiday of Passover, was first created in the 10th century and, for the past 500 years has also been celebrated as a work of art.  Many of these sacred texts contain not only the order of the Seder, but beautiful and intricate illustrations representing scenes from both the Haggadah and other biblical verses and stories.  The reading of the Haggadah at Passover originated from the verse, “You shall tell your son on that day: it is because of what the Lord did for me when I came forth out of Egypt” (Exodus 13:8). The haggadah remains one of the most celebrated items of Jewish literature and art.

Papercutting is another Jewish art tradition.  A folk art which was popular amongst European Jews as far back as the 18th century, papercutting was a fun and inexpensive craft which incorporated animals, plants, religious symbols and Hebrew inscriptions in designs

Modern papercut artist Archie Granot has been creating contemporary papercut pieces for several decades.  His work incorporates some of the traditional symbols used in Jewish papercut folk art for centuries, but focuses on his signature blend of Hebrew calligraphy and abstract geometric shapes and patterns.  His multi-layered paper pieces, some nearly an inch thick, are inspired by sacred verses and biblical tales, making the Haggadah a perfect choice for his talents.

The Haggadah by Archie Granot

Commissioned by private collectors almost ten years ago, Granot’s Haggadah was crafted with the goal of evoking the intense emotions attached with the Passover Seder by utilizing geometric and abstract shapes instead of the usual symbols.  Fifty five pages long, every word of Hebrew text in his Haggadah is handcut, with each page standing as both an independent work of art and a single piece of a beautiful, thematically unified whole.  Each page tackles a certain aspect or song associated with the Seder, with one piece titled “Ma Nishtanah” (The Four Questions).  Another page of Granot’s Haggadah is dedicated to representing “Pesach, Matzah, Maror” (The Passover Offering, the Unleavened Bread and the Bitter Herb), and incorporates shapes that evoke the traditional matzah.  Each of the 55 pages in his Papercut Haggadah measures 53cm x38cm (21″ x15″) with some pages weighing more than 5 pounds and exhibits Granot’s unique style while fulfilling his goal in representing the emotions of Passover.

Archie Granot was born in London but soon relocated to Israel, where he was a member of an agricultural community before permanently settling down in Jerusalem. He studied Russian at University of Glasgow and Political Science and Russian at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  Granot started papercutting in 1979, and currently has his own studio and gallery in Jerusalem.  His first exhibition was at Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel.  Granot has had solo exhibitions in the United States, Israel and Germany, including an exhibition here at the Yeshiva University Museum.  He has participated in group exhibitions in France and Japan as well, and Granot’s works are part of collections belonging to Bar Ilan University, Ramat Gan, Israel; Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel; Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel; Cantor Jacob and Dr. Belle Rosenbaum Mezuzah Collection, Great Synagogue, Jerusalem, Israel; Museum der Scherenschnitte, Vreden, Germany; Victoria and Albert Museum, London, England; Jewish Museum, New York; Jewish Theological Seminary, New York; Yeshiva University Museum, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Judaica, Philadelphia; among other museums and public collections.  Professor Bezalel Narkiss, Center for Jewish Art, Jerusalem, stated The papercuts of Archie Granot are a special phenomenon in contemporary art. In spite of the restrictions he has put upon himself… he has managed to develop an impressive individual style.”  Archie Granot’s work was recently  featured in “Ombres & Lumières,” Musée des Miniatures et Décors de Cinéma, Lyons, France. Visit these sample Haggadah pages to see the Haggadah up close.