Jakob Steinhardt was born in Żerków, Germany (currently Poland) in 1887. His was educated in Berlin and Paris by Louis Corinth, Hermann Struck and Théophile Steinlen, among others. In 1912, he established the Expressionist group, Pathetiker with Ludwig Meidner. In 1914 he was drafted by the German army and stationed in Lithuania and then Macedonia. He presented works drawn during the war as part of the Vienna Secession in Berlin, 1917. During the war, Jakob participated in Jewish and Zionist clubs and in 1925, visited Israel for the first time. In 1933 he immigrated with his wife and daughter and settled in Tel Aviv, later moving to Jerusalem. There, in 1934, he opened “The Studio”, where he taught drawing, painting and printing until 1949. Between 1940 and 1957 he taught at Bezalel and held the position of director for two years (1953-1955).
Steinhardt arrived in Israel as an Expressionist of a very characteristic style and a formulated artistic voice. He became an honored and popular teacher amongst his students. His influence is visible in the works of his friends, like Anna Ticho and Miron Sima and amongst the generation of Young Germans like Jacob Pins. Additionally, Steinhardt’s creative reach is seen in the works of artists that participated in his courses at “The Studio” and in Bezalel, like Rachel Shavit.
He was awarded with many prizes, amongst them, the first prize in the Biennial of Sao Paulo (1955), and in the Arte Liturgica Award, Venice, Italy (1955). Following Steinhardt’s death, a portion of his artwork was donated to the Israel Museum, Jerusalem in 2009. The collection of his works reflects 67 years of art in practice, beginning with drawings he prepared at the age of 13, and ending with his album called ‘Lamentations of War’, created in 1967.
Steinhardt was a master-craftsman of printing. He strived to use different techniques in each area of his work. He often used wood-cutting techniques that were popular amongst German Expressionists. Steinhardt was driven to express ideas clearly and decisively through art.
Amongst the themes found in his work the prophets of the Bible, such as Jonah, are noticeable. Steinhardt identified deeply with Jonah due to his attempt to run from God’s call to duty.
Additionally, the image of beggars was often found in Steinhardt’s works and in his artistic presentation of the less fortunate, the artist’s love for his fellow man becomes evident.
Moreover, the grotesque was a theme noticeable in Steinhardt’s earliest pieces. These were fantastical images; it was unclear whether or not they were human or demon. In the 1950’s, Steinhardt returned to these images upon learning of the Holocaust of Europe’s Jews. At that time he resided in New York and there, in the shadow of the skyscrapers, Steinhardt’s reaction to WWII was expressed through his art.
1906 Berlin Art Museum, Berlin
1907 painting with Louis Corinth and engraving with Herman Struck, Berlin
1909-1910 Académie Julian, Paris
1909-1910 Académie Colarossi, Paris
1909-1910 Académie Matisse, Paris
1934-1949 Instructor drawing, painting and printing, The Studio
1949-1957 Instructor, New Bezalel, Jerusalem
1949-1953 Head of graphics department, New Bezalel, Jerusalem
1953-1957 Director, Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem
Awards And Prizes
1939 IBM prize, New York World’s Fair, New York, USA
1955 First Prize, Sao Paolo Biennale, Brazil
1958 California Print Makers Prize, San Francisco, USA
1959 Arte Liturgica Prize, Venice Biennale, Italy
1961 Arte Secra Prize, The International Biannial for Religious Art, Trieste, Italy