The Mountains Are Round About Jerusalem (15/05/2007 - 15/07/2007)
Jerusalem and its surroundings in the eye of the artist
The Engel Galleries, established in 1955 in Jerusalem, are proud to present the exhibition "The Mountains are round about Jerusalem", celebrating the 40th anniversary of the city's unification following the Six Day War (1967). Engel Galleries have two galleries in Jerusalem and one in Tel Aviv, where the show is staged.
The exhibition presents a selection of works by Israeli, as well as International artists, of different generations, whose work was inspired by the city of Jerusalem.
Jerusalem has been a source of inspiration for many artists; artists of different religions have seen the city's spirituality as an artistic challenge and as a conceptual source for their work.
Mark Chagall's painting "David with a harp", Tempera on Mazonite, depicts King David with a golden crown on his head dresses in royal gowns. David is standing on top of a mountain, playing the harp. Jerusalem is set across from the small Jewish east European town (the Sthatele). David is surrounded by religious symbols. At the right bottom end of the painting an artist is portrayed painting this very work; this element represents a longing for perfection. In front of the artist passes the horse of a Jewish Wagoner, embodying a subtle hint for the Diaspora setting rather than the Jerusalem one. On the other side, at the left end of the painting, Mary, the mother of Jesus, sits with the child in her lap, breastfeeding. In the Christian tradition Jesus is one of David's offspring. Between Mary and King David, stands the Jewish violinist. At the top of the painting the blue skies of the Land of Israel are spread, with a loving couple encapsulated in them. The messiah's donkey stands on the right top end, while in front of it appears the guardian angel; a violinist standing on his head, as an earthly angel listening to the King's music.
Artists who emigrated during the early 20th century from Europe to Israel were drawn to Jerusalem because it stimulated their artistic passion. Reuven Rubin, who painted many paintings of Jerusalem and its walls, loved to depict the city's mountains and landscapes as well. In his painting "The Road to Jerusalem – Ein Karem", oil on canvas, Reuven portrays the small pastoral village of Ein Karem and its olive trees with two shepherds and a flock of goats.
The painting could be interpreted as a description of the pilgrims arriving to the Holy City, guiding the sheep, which might be sacrificed at the Temple. The pastoral view of the olive trees, is deceiving, exemplifying Reuven's adoration for the mystic atmosphere immersed in the scene.
Mordechai Ardon, a former teacher at the Bauhaus, arrived to Jerusalem in order to be the head of the Bezalel Academy of Art. He has found the city and its surroundings to be an inspiring setting for his mystic-kabbalah paintings, which he so loved and often painted.
In his painting "Ein Karem", 1930, oil on canvas, the little village is set at the feet of the high mountains with the skies in between them. The high mountains of Jerusalem, with their peaks being out of the painting's frame, miniaturize the village houses at their feet.
Anna Ticho arrived to Israel and Jerusalem from Vienna, following her husband, the famous ophthalmologist, Dr. Ticho.
Being as curious as she was, Anna Ticho would tour the city and its surroundings, painting the Judea and Jerusalem wild mountains with their scarce flora, offering a profound insight. These landscapes stood in a complete contrast with the ones of her childhood. The fierce Israeli sun light created wonderful shades that enabled Ticho to unfold the depths of nature, while structuring consolidated compositions that intimately bind her with nature and the light of Jerusalem.
Yaacov Steinhardt, a painter of the German Expressionistic style, arrived to Jerusalem and began to teach in Bezalel. He fell in love with the city and cared for it deeply; this emotion is expressed in all of his works.
In his painting "Jerusalem", 1934, oil on canvas, a rather large painting for that time (one must remember that hunger and disease were an everyday reality in Jerusalem of that time and especially among artists who just barely made a living), Steinhardt paints the city, spread wide open across the canvas. Jerusalem is described as a glorious city, whose surroundings are not overshadowing, but rather on the contrary, they are lit up and inviting. The soft light veils the painting as if it was a dream, turning just in front of our eyes to a divine mystic reality. This is a realistic description, portraying the view and emotions that overcome any one who watches the city from Mount Scopus.
Yosef Zaritsky, born in Ukraine, came to Israel in 1923 and began to paint its landscapes.
In his painting, "Jerusalem", 1924, water color and pencil on paper, painted approximately a year after his arrival he presents a landscape of the city which offers a perspective full of light. As many other artists, Zaritsky was enchanted with the city's slopes and valleys; yet, it was the special light properties that fascinated him. The physical, yet spiritual light of the fathers' land, seems like an excerpt of a postcard sent overseas, inviting the addressee to come and view this marvel.
Leon Engelsberg, arrived to Israel in 1954 from Warsaw. He lived in the Abu-Tor neighborhood, situated on the borderline, with an Arab majority of residents. Englesberg lived in celibacy, played the violin looking at the Judea Mountains and painted the landscapes he saw.
His works emphasize the special colorfulness of the city and its surroundings. The glowing light was an element that drew his attention, coming from the rather dusky east Europe. He was enchanted and never ceased to portray his impression of the city and its might, combining the humble monastic nature of its rocky landscapes, forming a marvelous structure.
Moshe el-Natan, known as "Jerusalem's Falafel King", arrived from Iran in 1920. As a child, his family passed through India on its way to Israel, where he studied painting with an Indian master. He served in the Royal British army and was even asked to paint the portrait of the Royal family. As he completed his military service he came to Israel and opened a falafel stand in Agripas St. in Jerusalem. The naïve artist, who dreamt of a wholly life in Jerusalem, sat in his small stand and painted his dreams, while frying falafel and selling it to the people passing by. His dreams, as can be seen in his paintings, were ones of a universal character, describing the eternal city of Jerusalem as the center of the universe.
The painting "Pilgrimage to Jerusalem", oil on wood, describes the Temple as the symbol of city. Above the temple, a great variety of aircrafts fly to the city as on a magical carpet. Right above the Temple, carried on a cloud, Moses holding the tables of the covenant and David Ben Gurion are portrayed. The two, reach out their hands to one another, representing a vision that is carried throughout all generations – beginning with the desert generation and reaching the foundation of the State of Israel. This scene could also be seen as homage to Michelangelo's "Creation of Man" in the Vatican Sistine Chapel.
The artists of the following generations continue to describe the city and create while inspired by it.
Naftali Bezem, who came to Israel with his family in 1938, before World War II, joined the kibbutz and began to paint in a social-realist style. The vision of Hebrew work and life in the kibbutz had influenced him a great deal, and he wished to glorify them in his art. Later, due to the awakening from the socialist dream, and the disappointment that followed, he found Judaism and the memories of his immigration to be the spiritual realm for his new creation.
This shift is presented in his painting “Pilgrimage to Jerusalem”. The artist and his wife are portrayed in the boat, leading them to the Promised Land. The oar of the boat is presented as an arrow pointing at the walls of Jerusalem, for the vision of immigration to the land of Israel was summed up in the words An eye still watches toward Zion,
Shmuel Bak, an artist who survived the holocaust, has been saved by a number of monks who hid him in their monastery. After arriving to Israel, he began to paint in a Surrealist-Figurative style, as he perpetuates the ruined Jewish towns.
In his painting, “The Absalom Monument”, we see the monument with a target board at its feet and part of a Menorah carved into stone. This is a description of ruins which joins together the old with the new. On the right, a path leads the eye to the ruined European city in the background. As a storyteller, the painter leads us and unravels his journey. Yet, Jerusalem and the Land of Israel, being ruins themselves, symbolize hope, a land that could be nurtured and rehabilitated.
Malachi, an 86 year old artist from Jerusalem is also a holocaust survivor. Born in Hungary, he came to Israel in 1949. Ever since, he has been living in Jerusalem. Being an observant Jew, who is primarily influenced by music and sound that became key themes of his work over the last five decades, he paints “The Sounds of the Desert (the Judea Desert from Mount Scopus)”.
This painting makes one feel the silence of the desert, bursting from the canvas. The desert is spread at the foothills of the city, from the east, while the artist stands on the top of Mount Scopus, painting to the sound of the flute as the Bedouin shepherds bring life into the painting.
Yaacov Agam, one of the founders of kinetic art, was born in Israel, lives and creates all around the globe as an ambassador of Israeli art. He created “The Lions’ Gate and a Rainbow over the City”, a work full of movement which is a silk print on a perspex.
This work presents two perspectives of the city. The first describes the Old City through the Lions' Gate. The other one presents the new city for its unique buildings, when the rainbow colors the city with its marvelous variety of shades.
Lea Hayerushalmith is an artist who creates using a naïve style. She was born in Jerusalem and currently resides with her family in the Golan Heights. Lea's work describes Jerusalem in the days of the prophets Ezra and Nehemiah.
This work was weaved in Jerusalem and became a large loom carpet describing the story of the city’s reconstruction after the destruction of the First Temple. The city is built from the walls in, while at the forefront, its enemies seeking its destruction are besieging the walls. This is an allegory of the building of both the country and the city. The purpose is to maintain and preserve the things that do exist with great might and patience, while those who besiege from the outside search for the cracks in the wall in an attempt to destroy it once again.
Yoav Ben Dov was born in Ein-Hod in the Carmel Mountains, was born and raised on the mountain. In his painting, “Joy”, 2005, (detail) oil and golden leafs on canvas,
Jerusalem is a city made of gold. The city is built as a simple village and the houses are of a basic form, as the shape of a house which is inscribed in the human collective memory.
Eilat Adar, whose art is based on meditation, describes Jerusalem following a time of silent meditation she held on Mount Scopus, studying the Old City. As she opened her eyes she saw a city burning in red with clouds covering the city’s outline. This unique description of the city awakens the feeling of dispute and blood which has been shed for many centuries and generations in the city. This conveys an intense ambivalent feeling of a terrorized city on the one hand, and a city of indescribable power on the other. This sensation is known in the literature as “the Jerusalem Syndrome”, as the ones who are affected by it (primarily tourists) wander around the city’s streets, every day, struggling to encompass its spirituality.
Shaul Shatz, an artist who was born and raised in Kibbutz Sarid, became an observant Jew and currently resides on the slopes of the Jerusalem Mountains, over looking the Old City. He paints the landscape of the city and its surroundings in a style that might resemble a spiritual impressionist one. His works present an enlightenment experienced by artists who relate to the city in the spiritual mode of the Jewish religion.
The paintings are made of lines and colors, embodying an entire world. Their integration leaves upon the spectator the impression of a world constructed of light and darkness, a perspective that penetrates deeply into the mountain and the city. The spirituality that is embodied in Shatz’s works provides the sense of the divine spirit which resided on the city and its mountains.
Leonid Balaklav, an artist who arrived to Israel from the Soviet Union, became religious as well, and currently lives in Jerusalem. Balaklav draws the figures and landscapes of Jerusalem. He walks through the city with coal chalks in his pockets and portrays the sights he observes. As he returns to his studio, he continues to work with colors and develop the themes of his work.
His paintings of the city’s landscapes emphasize the everyday life, the neighborhood houses with their yards, the sun heated water tanks lying on the roofs, a typical Israeli sight, and the secular aspects of the city as well. The painted sky sets the background to the city houses creating the spiritual mode of Jerusalem. This spiritual mode reflects Balaklav's feeling to the city as an artist and as an ultra-orthodox Jew who lives his everyday life in a holy city.