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Published March 08, 2023 Updated March 17, 2023

Dada and Surrealist Art

Dada and Surrealist Art playing cards featuring artwork by Arturo Schwarz, 1998.

1998 Israel Arturo Schwarz Art Gallery Surrealism Add to Collection

This pack of cards was produced to celebrate the Israel Museum’s receipt of 700 Dada and Surrealist works of art from Arturo Schwarz (1924-2021), an Italian scholar, art historian, poet, writer, lecturer, art consultant and curator of international art exhibitions.

In 1998, on the occasion of Israel’s 50th anniversary, Schwarz donated a large part of his vast collection of Dada, Surrealist, and pre-Surrealist art to the Israel Museum. The New York Times estimated the 1998 and subsequent gifts to be worth more than $30 million and called Mr. Schwarz’s collection “unparalleled.”

In light of the large number of items donated to the Museum it is a little disappointing to see that the illustrations on the court cards are the same in each suit, and that the two jokers are identical, with the result that only 4 different works appear on the cards (and a fifth on the backs). However, the pip cards are arranged in attractive non-standard patterns.

Dada and Surrealist Art playing cards with artwork by Arturo Schwarz, produced by the Israel Museum, 1998 Dada and Surrealist Art playing cards with artwork by Arturo Schwarz, produced by the Israel Museum, 1998

Above: Dada and Surrealist Art playing cards featuring artwork by Arturo Schwarz, produced by the Israel Museum, 1998.

NOTE: Arturo Schwarz’s generosity to the Israel Museum began in 1972, when he donated a complete set of editioned replicas issued in collaboration with Duchamp. In 1991, he donated a rare collection of manuscripts, books, vintage Dada and Surrealist periodicals, documents, manifestos, and extensive personal correspondence.

For further information about the artist’s life and relationship with the Museum see here

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By Peter Burnett

Member since July 27, 2022

I graduated in Russian and East European Studies from Birmingham University in 1969. It was as an undergraduate in Moscow in 1968 that I stumbled upon my first 3 packs of “unusual” playing cards which fired my curiosity and thence my life-long interest. I began researching and collecting cards in the early 1970s, since when I’ve acquired over 3,330 packs of non-standard cards, mainly from North America, UK and Western Europe, and of course from Russia and the former communist countries.

Russian Playing Cards

Following my retirement from the Bodleian Library in Dec. 2007 I took up a new role as Head of Library Development at the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP) to support library development in low-income countries. This work necessitated regular training visits to many sub-Saharan African countries and also further afield, to Vietnam, Nepal and Bangladesh – all of which provided rich opportunities to further expand my playing card collection.

Since 2019 I’ve been working part-time in the Bodleian Library where I’ve been cataloguing the bequest of the late Donald Welsh, founder of the English Playing Card Society.


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