INTRODUCTION TO THE HISTORY OF THE ISRAELI ART
HOW TO DEFINE JEWISH ART?
WHO IS AND WHO IS NOT A JEWISH ARTIST?
PREDOMINANT AND DRASTIC JEWISH CHANGES
In Europe, new social and intellectual changes in the Jewish communities prompted and influenced Jewish artists to illustrate and paint the drastic intellectual, artistic, philosophical and cultural changes among cultured and avant-garde Jews. Max Lieberman, the pioneer of German Expressionism echoed Jewish intellectualism. However, Lieberman did not completely abandoned the Jewish traditional nostalgia. His famous masterpiece The Artists Wife and Granddaughter, painted in 1926, portrayed the warmth and sweetness of a German-Jewish family fading away amid tumultuous and frightening European political events. Around 1935, all his artwork was removed from the German museums by the Nazi party and its hoodlums.
THE BEGINNING OF A JEWISH ART MOVEMENT
Jewish migration and radical changes in Jewish communities in the late 19th and early 20th centuries forced or invited leading Jewish artists in France, Russia, Eastern Europe and in the United States to focus on recapturing the spirit, essence and soul of Judaic history and culture. In that context, Jewish artists felt the need for creating an authentic Jewish art; a pure Hebraic art. And Boris Schatz took the lead. He went to Jerusalem to establish the Bezalel School. Around 1920, many artists from various parts of Europe joined Schatz in his efforts to create an authentic Jewish art and to protect and promote Zionism Idealism through paintings, illustrations, drawings, sketches and sculpture reflecting bursting Jewish optimism. However, instead of creating a Jewish Art, they produced a Hebraic Art, later to be known as the Hebrew Art. This new breed of Jewish artists, ardently and diligently, began to paint scenes from the daily life of Jewish families in Palestine, paysages and stills from small Jewish towns, and the world they lived in.
The beginning of the Jewish or Hebraic art movement was characterized by artistic naivety, esthetic transparency and utmost candid human inner feelings. It was not a great art. But, humanistic enough, truthful enough and colorful enough to be considered an artistic creativity which honestly reflected the passages to times, simplicity and complications of typical Jewish surroundings and daily life. In that sense, the truthfulness and candid beauty in the artwork of the early Jewish artists in Palestine became an artistic-social chronicle and a humanistic journal of the life and times of early Jewish immigrants in the promised land. The Small Town, a painting done by Nahum Gutman reflects this reality. It depicted the early sceneries of Tel Aviv as a newly established Jewish town. The painting was submerged with lights, lyrical colors and candor, yet it lacked artistry and refined esthetical touch. The early Jewish or Israeli art was childish, naive, rudimentary but imbibed with human truthfulness, honest provincial beauty and transparent emotions. Regrettably, this lovely primitive realism Jewish-Israeli art did not survive. A new wave of more talented Jewish artists who studied in Paris, France on the hands of remarkable French artists like Cezanne, completely and totally changed the style and compositional structure of the early Israeli art. They brought new techniques, new definition, innovative structure, multidimensional themes, vibrant colors, more elaborate landscapes dimensions and a challenging esthetical equilibrium between models, subjects and artists personal interpretation and artistic visions. One of the leading figures of those innovative and talented artists was Yosef Zaritsky who brought to the cosmos of humanistic art, a series of delightful watercolor landscapes.
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