Leon Engelsberg was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1919. Apart from his two older brothers, Engelsberg had a twin sister. As a child, the family lived in the town of Otwock and Warsaw. He attended a general gymnasium and played the violin. In 1939, after the German occupation, he fled to Lvov and from there was deported to the Soviet Union. In 1943 he joined the Polish army that operated under the Soviet army. He served as a strategic gunner and sketched. During his service, he was injured and received a medal of honor. After the war he studied art in Warsaw and was a member of the city’s art union. In 1957 he immigrated to Israel and was sent to a transit camp in Kiryat Binyamin, near Haifa. A few months later he moved to an abandoned house in the Abu Tor neighborhood of Jerusalem. His artistic estate was donated by the artist to the State of Israel.
Engelsberg’s early works, from the time of his stay in Poland, already crystallized his artistic style, which combined academic painting with trends towards abstraction and expressionism. Alongside landscape descriptions and self-portraits, he also created works on the subject of the Holocaust, which he referred to as “Jewish martyrology paintings.”
Engelsberg’s landscape, constituting the greater part of his oeuvre, represents the public aspect of the artist’s relations with the surrounding world. his style, developed in his early 1960’s paintings, was based on the translation of the landscape into an independent, abstract painterly language.
Engelsberg’s personal history complements the acceptance of Israeli art, flowing like a suppressed, underground trickle beside the main current.
Captivated by the Jerusalem landscape, Engelsberg can be counted among a large group of Israeli landscape painters whose work constitute a deep emotional and aesthetic response to the local vistas.
His romantic attitude seems to recall the conceptions of the pioneer- artists of the pre-state era. Yet his stylistic approach tends toward abstraction and the translation of the various features of the landscape into autonomous painterly values, associating him with the idiom of the landscape painters of the 1950’s and 1960’s. either way Engelsberg remains a breed apart, unaffiliated with any group, the sense of ambivalence and melancholy permeating his entire oeuvre.
-Tamar Manor Friedman, “Somber Skies”, in: Leon Engelsberg- Retrospective, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2006
– Gil Goldfine, “The Rising of Engelsberg”, Jerusalem Post, 20.4.2006
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1946-1950 Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw, Poland
Awards And Prizes
1991 Shoshana Ish Shalom Prize, The Artists House, Jerusalem
1991 Sussman Prize for Artists Depicting the Holocaust, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem