Article - "Israel Art"
THE SCRIBE BY BORIS SCHATZ (1862-1932)
Boris (Baruch) Schatz was born in Vorono, Russia, to a poor, religious family. At the age of 15, he was sent to Vilna to study at a Yeshiva. There the young scholar discovered his artistic bent, and took to studying Bible during the day and art at night. Schatz's interest lay in sculpture, and the well-known Jewish artist Antokolski was an inspiration to him . When Antokolski visited Vilna in 1887, he saw Schatz's work, but refused to accept him as a pupil. When Schatz reached Paris in 1889 after a two-year stay in Warsaw, however, his wish to work with Antokolski was fulfilled. Under the influence of his teacher and the milieu, Schatz devoted himself to historical themes. In 1895, Schatz moved to Sofia, Bulgaria, where he directed the Academy of Illustrative Arts and was appointed Court sculptor by King Ferdinand. His artistic achievement of that period made him a well-known artist all over Europe. In the wake of his meeting with Herzl in 1903, Schatz drew closer to the Zionist movement. During those years, most of his work was in bas-relief and on Jewish subjects, an example being the work now reproduced: The Scribe, showing a copyist of sacred books.
In 1905 Schatz was a delegate to the Zionist Congress in Basel, and there he obtained approval for the "Bezalel Plan." A year later he arrived in Jerusalem with his friend Lilien to set up the "Bezalel" Art School. The establishment of "Bezalel" was an imaginative venture at the time. A revolution which quickly became fact. Boris Schatz's artistic institution rapidly became a focus of attraction for young Jewish artists from all over the world, who streamed in to get their artistic training in Jerusalem.
Many changes have taken place in the "Bezalel" Art School between the time when it was a center for handicraft studies and the present when it is the most important Israel facility for the study of the plastic arts, but it is clear that the work and daring enterprise of Boris Schatz formed the basis of Israel art in our time.
SARAH BY ABEL PANN (1883-1963)
Abel Pann was born in Latvia, the son of the Rabbi and Yeshiva head in his town. He showed an interest in painting at an early age, and was sent to art school in Odessa.
At the age of 18, he went to Paris and studied there in the Academy of Art. His work of that period is in the School of Paris style.
In 1913, he emigrated to Eretz Israel and taught for a short period at the "Bezalel" School. His first show, held about a year later, was entirely made up of landscapes of Jerusalem. Thereafter, just before the outbreak of World War I, Pann returned to Paris.
Pann was deeply affected by the pogroms in Russia at the time, and many of his works were devoted to these tragic happenings. In 1920 he returned to make his home in Eretz Israel, and resumed his teaching at the Bezalel School. It was in the early twenties that Pann began painting Biblical subjects, and until his death most of his work was on such themes.
Pann gave a special oriental expression to his Biblical works, and this is very evident in Sarah, which draws its inspiration from the passage in Genesis: "He said unto Sarai his wife: 'Behold now, I know thou art a fair woman to look upon'."
The first lithography printing plant in Jerusalem was established by Pann, and it was there that his many works, albums on Biblical themes and others, were published. His work is to be found in many well-known museums all over the world.
ZEFAT BY MENAHEM SHEMI (1897-1951)
Menahem Shemi (Schmidt) was born in Russia. Though still a child when his talent was discovered, he left home to study art in Odessa. A strong desire to know and study oriental art in the place where it developed, as well as reports of the Bezalel School, led the 16-year-old artist to immigrate to Eretz Israel in 1913.
The historic events of subsequent years made Shemi interrupt his studies and join the Jewish Legion. After his discharge, he settled in Tiberias (Teveryah) and began teaching art. Most of the paintings of that period are devoted to the landscape of that city on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Shemi also lectured and wrote extensively, and got a great deal of enjoyment out of teaching. A new phase in his art developed when he moved to Haifa and began to paint the local scene. The result was striking Carmel landscapes embodying the essence of the Israel landscape as a whole. Also reflected in his paintings are the 1928 and 1938 visits to Paris, and particularly the great admiration he felt for Cezanne and Picasso.
In 1942 Shemi joined the British Army and served for three years in North Africa and in Italy. The influence of the Holocaust is clearly seen in his work of that period in the dark colors in contrast with a bright blue. After World War II, he settled in still another eminently paintable city, Safed (Zefat), which he painted till the end of his life.
His last period (Safed, 1946-1950) is characterized by wonderful impetus, freedom, clarity, and beautiful colorfulness which are enchanting. The marvelous dreamlike canvases of Safed are the apex of Shemi's talent. Each painting is a poem, a hymn of love for the Israel landscape, and of the beautiful and expressive oriental atmosphere.
OLD JERUSALEM BY JACOB STEINHARDT (1887-1968)
Jacob Steinhardt was born in Germany. At the age of nine, he was sent to school in Berlin, where he earned a scholarship when his artistic talent was discovered. In 1906, Steinhardt enrolled at the Berlin Museum of Art and Craft. A year later, however, the young painter joined the studio of Louis Corinth, who was more progressive than the teachers in the academic institutions. Subsequently, during a short visit to Paris, Steinhardt met Matisse, with whom he worked and studied and who influenced him considerably. In 1912, he founded the "pathetic group," one of the offshoots of the German expressionist movement. In the course of his military service in 1914, Steinhardt was posted to Lithuania. For the first time, he came in contact with a Jewish community that had a deep religious consciousness. The meeting changed Steinhardt's world completely, and he developed a strong attraction to everything connected with Jewish tradition. He portrayed the Jewish world he had found in Lithuania many times thereafter in his drawings.
Steinhardt visited Eretz Israel briefly in 1925, and settled there in 1933, making Jerusalem his home. As a teacher of graphics and later director of the Bezalel Art School, Steinhardt left his mark on a whole generation of Israeli artists.
Made for S. Shalom's poem, "Jerusalem, Wrapped in Ages," the work reproduced - Old Jerusalem - is a woodcut, an art form in which Steinhardt found his most personal artistic language. What stands out most in his woodcuts is not the objective description of the landscape, but rather the forceful expression given to his emotional understanding of the subject. Steinhardt exhibited all over the world; representing the State of Israel, his works received first prize in the graphics section at the Sao Paulo Biennale of 1955.
REBIRTH BY AARON KAHANA (1905-1967)
Aaron Kahana was born in Germany. His artistic talent showed itself early, and at the age of 16 he began his studies at the Academy of Art in Stuttgart. The inspiration of Cezanne is evident in his work of that period. Upon the completion of his training, he moved to Berlin, and also won a scholarship allowing him a year's study in Paris (1927). The Nazi rise to power led Kahana (in 1934) to immigrate to Eretz Israel, where he at first painted realistic landscapes. At the beginning of the forties he spent some time in Paris, absorbing the influence of the artists working there at the time, and a drastic change took place in his style. Thereafter, his work became more and more geometric, approaching the abstract, with clean and interesting color.
At the same time, many of Kahana's works show signs of the deep inspiration he drew from the Bible and also from the archaeological finds in the country. Rebirth, painted in 1955, belongs to this group.
Kahana also applied his manifold gifts to ceramics, a field in which he created highly original work - including murals many of which he produced in cooperation with his devoted wife. He was one of the founding members of the "New Horizons" group, and in 1938 and 1953 received the Dizengoff Prize for art. Kahana's works are in the collections of some of the most important museums of Europe and America.
The five stamps depict Sarah by Abel Pann; The Scribe by Boris Schatz; Zefat by Menahem Shemi; Resurrection by Aharon Kahana; and Old Jerusalem by Jacob Steinhardt.