The Chaser & The Chased: Stella and the Poetry of Had Gadya

Frank Stella: Had Gadya

One might not immediately associate Frank Stella (b. 1936), the American painter, sculptor, and printmaker noted for his work in the areas of minimalism and post-painterly abstraction with a cumulative, lyrical poem that concludes the traditional Seder, or festive meal, on the Jewish holiday of Passover.

Had Gadya (One Little Goat) is one of the earliest recorded songs for children. Just as each verse of the song builds on one before it, Stella builds on the original 1919 series of prints by Russian-Jewish avante-garde artist El Lissitzky (1890–1941). Lissitzky, who began his career illustrating Yiddish children’s books, created a print for each stanza of the famous song. Stella first encountered these works in the Tel Aviv Art Museum in 1981 and was profoundly inspired by their movement and the vibrancy of the simplified, graphic forms.

Frank Stella’s Had Gadya print series took two years to complete. The large prints were created using a combination of various techniques—lithography, linoleum block, silkscreen, and rubber relief with collage elements and hand-coloring. The prints were finally published by Waddington Graphics, London, in 1984. After completing the edition, Stella created between two and nine variants of each of the twelve Had Gadya illustrations.

The Skirball Museum is the second venue for a national tour of the three Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion campuses in North America. Frank Stella: Had Gadya appeared at the Los Angeles campus March 31–December 31, 2022 and will be on view at the Dr. Bernard Heller Museum on the New York campus September 7, 2023 – March 2, 2024.

All in-person events take place at Mayerson Hall, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, 3101 Clifton Avenue, Cincinnati, OH.

Thursday, April 13 at 4:30 pm ET / 1:30 pm PT / 11:30 pm Israel
In-person and via Livestream

Anne Hromadka Greenwald, HUC-JIR, Los Angeles curator and Southern Californiabased arts professional, will bring together her love of storytelling and expertise in Jewish contemporary art to explore the exhibition’s deeper themes. Join Anne for a close look at Stella’s captivating prints through the light of traditional and modern re-readings of the popular Seder folksong, Had Gadya. The title of her talk comes from the haunting lyrics of Chava Alberstein’s reimagined Had Gadya, written during the First Intifada and recorded only a few years after Stella completed his series. In the same piece, she ponders: “What has changed? I have changed this year.” Like Alberstein and Stella, we live through uncertain times. Together we will use poetry, music, and art to inspire hope and help us break free of the repetitive cycles of trauma that lurk beneath the surface of this extraordinary work.

Registration required.


Programs are free and open to the public
Links for Livestream/Zoom programs provided upon registration.