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David Ludwig Bloch

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Shanghai Street Scene by David Ludwig Bloch
David Ludwig Bloch, 1910–2002: “Shanghai, Street Scene, 1949”, 1949, Leo Baeck Institute Art and Objects Collection, 83.154.

David Ludwig Bloch (1910-2002)


Bloch’s art was influenced by his personal experiences in Germany and his immigration to Shanghai. An attentive observer of his surroundings, Bloch’s art depicted life in the colorful city. He focused on street scenes, often involving the mundane everyday life of the underprivileged: peddlers, rickshaw pullers, and beggars. Bloch also documented the harsh living conditions of Jewish stateless refugees. His impressionistic and naturalistic watercolors and woodcuts reflect his own artistic upbringing by merging Western influences with Chinese traditional aesthetics. In the 1970s, Bloch began creating works with the motif of the Holocaust. Instead of the vibrant colors which dominate this painting of a bustling side street in Shanghai, dark tones, haggard bodies, skeletons, and the gates of camps prevail in these later works.

Bloch Map.png
Philo-Atlas: Handbuch für die jüdische Auswanderung (Philo-Atlas: Manual for Jewish Emigration), Berlin: Philo GmbH, 1938.


David Ludwig Bloch was born in Bavaria in 1910. Despite losing his hearing as a child due to meningitis, he enrolled in a program in applied painting in Munich (now the Academy of Fine Arts). After the Nazis’ rise to power, Bloch lost his work as an illustrator and was expelled from the university because he was Jewish. Following Kristallnacht, he was interned in the Dachau concentration camp for four weeks. He was able to flee Germany thanks to financial help from a relative in the United States. Because of restrictive immigration laws in many countries, he moved to Shanghai, China where he continued to work as a commercial illustrator and artist. He had his first solo exhibit there in 1941. Bloch stayed in Shanghai until 1949 and then moved with his Chinese wife to the United States, where he continued working as painter and graphic designer.