The following pages—Youth, WPA, 40’s, Arts Students League and Post 50’s—are not a detailed biography of Harold Anchel but rather an overview of his life. They highlight the many influences that shaped his artistic output, which you can view on the rest of the site. Harold grew up in tumultuous times, being born right before WWI, growing up in the 20's, experiencing the Great Depression, and then serving in the Army during WWII. A child of Jewish immigrants from Romania, he grew up on the Lower East Side in New York in a neighborhood and city that were constantly evolving because of the waves of immigration from foreign lands as well as from across America itself.
In order to view other sections of this biography click on the square links at the bottom of each page.
Born Anchel Harold Rosenberg on September 4th, 1912, Harold lived as a child on Third Street just east of SecondAvenue on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. His parents were both Romanian. His father, Hyman Rosenberg, was from Bucharest and his mother, Rose, was from Dorohoi, just northeast of Bucharest near the Ukrainian border. Harold had an older brother, Julian, and a sister named Harriet, who was 14 years younger.
Second Avenue had been one of the aristocratic residential areas of the city. It was taken over by German immigrants who soon began to move uptown. The Yiddish community that had lived on the Bowery moved in as a sign of upward mobility. The avenue was a wide, clean, prosperous street with no elevated tracks overhead and no derelicts and saloons.
The year 1910 marked the beginning of the development of the Yiddish Theater on Second Avenue. In those days, theaters were built for specific stars. In 1911, the first Yiddish theater, called the Second Avenue Theater, was built for David Kessler; the National Theater, built for Boris Thomashefsky, opened in 1912; and the Yiddish Art Theater, built for Maurice Schwartz, opened in 1926.
The opening of these theaters was accompanied by cafes, restaurants, cabarets, and vaudeville and cinema houses. Jewish restaurants and stores— including Katz's Delicatessen, Yonah Schimmel's Knishes, and Joel Russ' Appetizer Store (now Russ and Daughters)—opened on Houston Street and are still in business today.
Harold was always interested in art, even as a child. To the right is a drawing he gave to his mother as a young teenager. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School and probably did well, as we know he earned a 100 on his Algebra Regents, but it is possible he left school in his senior year.
At this point, Harold left the family home and moved in with a friend who went on to be an architect. In time he would return to the apartment on Third Street. From 1930-1932, he attended the National Academy of Design on 109th Street and Amsterdam Avenue.
After that, he performed in the New Dance Group for a while. "Established in 1932 by six young Jewish women on the Lower East Side of New York City. New Dance Group (NDG) trained leaders of the American dance through the twenty-first century. Founded with the desire to combine radical left-wing politics with modern dance, NDG proclaimed in its first anniversary bulletin in March, 1933: Dance is a Weapon of the Class Struggle."
The NDG performed at rallies and marched during protests. They performed with other groups led by Martha Graham, Mary Wigman, Edith Segal, Anna Sokolow, Hanya Holm, and Helen Tamiris. The performers followed theatrical scripts published in The Workers Theatre magazine and collaborated with the Musicians’ League. The inspiration for works began with dance improvisation based on social themes such as Strike (1932). It seems possible that these experiences set the stage for the subject matter of Harold’s later lithographs during the WPA period.