On each side of a graph paper sheet from a small notepad, Ascher quickly sketched two very different men in the same position, both wearing a monocle. The recto shows a male with facial features, particularly the nose, which reflect generations of Northern European stereotypical depictions of Jews. In contrast, the verso shows a male, whose facial features, including mustache and haircut, supported by his clothing, identify him as a German officer.
Again and again, Ascher points out this racial stereotyping in his early work, the growing tension in German society, and the identification of Jews as the “Other,” outside of German society. Beyond that, these works might point towards a personal struggle for identity. In 1899, father Hugo Ascher had left the Jewish faith with his three children, who joined the Christian faith in 1901.
Using similar racial stereotypes, the artist asks in 1915, “What is paradox!!!???” A detail of this graphite and ink drawing is the image on the flyer inviting Richmond area High School students to participate in this year’s competition by submitting an essay, poem or artwork that reflects on “Otherness,” using Fritz Ascher’s art or life as a stepping-off point. Our student handbook can be accessed here.
We’ll celebrate the winners at an awards ceremony and reception on May 4, 2020.