Jewish Art References

Jewish History and Culture: Fine Art, The Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art.

• Wertheimer, Jack, ed. The Modern Jewish Experience: A Reader's Guide, New York UP, 1993. See esp. pp. 228ff.
The pace of scholarly research and academic publication in fields of Judaica has quickened dramatically in the second half of the twentieth century. The major consumers and producers of this new scholarship are found in Jewish Studies programs that have proliferated at institutions of higher learning around the world since the 1960s. From the vantage point of the nineties, it is difficult to fathom that until thirty years ago, Jewish studies courses were mainly limited to a few elite universities, rabbinical seminaries, and Hebrew teachers' colleges. Today there are few colleges at public or private insitutions of higher learning that do not sponsor at least some courses on aspects of Jewish study.
In light of this explosion of research on Jewish topics, non-specialists and educators can benefit from guidance through the thicket of new monographs, source anthologies, textbooks and scholarly essays. The Modern Jewish Experience, the result of a multi-year collaboration between the International Center for the University Teaching of Jewish Civilization and the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, offers just such guidance on a range of issues pertaining to modern Jewish history, culture, religion, and society.
With contributions from two dozen leading scholars, The Modern Jewish Experience presents practical information and guidelines intended to expand the teaching repertoire for undergraduate courses on modern Jewish life, as well as a means for college professors to enrich and diversify their courses with discussions on otherwise neglected Jewish communities, social and political issues, religious and ideological movements, and interdisciplinary perspectives. Sample syllabi are also included for survey courses set in diverse linguistic settings. An indispensible resource for undergraduate instruction, this volume may also be used to great profit by educators of adults in synagogue and Jewish communal settings, as well as by individual students engaged in private study.

• Cohen, Richard I. Jewish Icons: Art and Society in Modern Europe, University of California Press, 1998. With the help of over one hundred illustrations spanning three centuries, Richard Cohen investigates the role of visual images in European Jewish history. In these images and objects that reflect, refract, and also shape daily experience, he finds new and illuminating insights into Jewish life in the modern period. Pointing to recent scholarship that overturns the stereotype of Jews as people of the text, unconcerned with the visual, Cohen shows how the coming of the modern period expanded the relationship of Jews to the visual realm far beyond the religious context. In one such manifestation, orthodox Jewry made icons of popular tabbis, creating images that helped to bridge the sacred and the secular. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, the study and collecting of Jewish art became a legitimate and even passionate pursuit, and signaled the entry of Jews into the art world as painters, collectors, and dealers. Cohen's exploration of early Jewish exhibitions, museums, and museology opens a new window on the relationship of art to Jewish culture and society.

• Fishof, Iris. Jewish Art Masterpieces from the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Hugh Lauter Levine, 1999. Featuring the world's most comprehensive collection of Jewish art, Jewish Art Masterpieces is a a fascinating survey of Jewish history. Color plates reveal the artistry and craftsmanship of precious objects such as an 8th-century B.C.E. ivory pomegranate from Solomon's temple, an engraved marriage contract from the 15th century, and paintings by modern artists including Marc Chagall and Menashe Kadishman. Illuminated manuscripts, such as the classic Bird's Head Haggadah from 14th-century Germany, are also featured, along with synagogue interiors, Torah decorations, and Sabbath and festival objects. An informative text explores each item's historical, religious, and artistic significance and reminds the reader of the enduring legacy of the Jewish heritage.

The objects are varied, ranging the classic "fine arts" (an oil painting) to useful objects (a prayer stand) to something that isn't an "object" at all (a decorated ceiling). The works hail from Jerusalem, Rome, Italy, Yemen, Germany, Poland, Afghanistan, Spain, Moravia, Turkey, Bohemia, Morroco, and more, yielding insights into rich and varied Jewish cultures.

• Soussloff, Catherine M. Jewish Identity in Modern Art History, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

• Bland, Kalman P. The Artless Jew: Medieval and Modern Affirmations and Denials of the Visual, Princeton, 2001. Conventional wisdom holds that Judaism is indifferent or even suspiciously hostile to the visual arts due to the Second Commandment's prohibition on creating "graven images," the dictates of monotheism, and historical happenstance. This intellectual history of medieval and modern Jewish attitudes toward art and representation overturns the modern assumption of Jewish iconophobia that denies to Jewish culture a visual dimension.
Kalman Bland synthesizes evidence from medieval Jewish philosophy, mysticism, poetry, biblical commentaries, travelogues, and law, concluding that premodern Jewish intellectuals held a positive, liberal understanding of the Second Commandment and did, in fact, articulate a certain Jewish aesthetic. He draws on this insight to consider modern ideas of Jewish art, revealing how they are inextricably linked to diverse notions about modern Jewish identity that are themselves entwined with arguments over Zionism, integration, and anti-Semitism.

Bland has shown that the whole question of whether Jews are 'rtless' is a construction of modern thought, and has little to do with pre-modern Jews. An excellent counterweight to the vast literature that claims that Jews and Judaism are visually handicapped (Steven Fine).

• Baigell, Matthew, and Milly Heyd, eds. Complex Identities: Jewish Consciousness and Modern Art, New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 2001.
Complex Identities is a joint effort by American and Israeli scholars who ask challenging questions about art as formed by society and ethnicity. Focusing on nineteenth– and twentieth–century European, American, and Israeli artists, the contributors delve into the many ways in which Jewish artists have responded to their Jewishness and to the societies in which they lived, and how these factors have influenced their art, their choice of subject matter, and presentation of their work. The contributions reflect a broad range of contemporary art criticism drawn from the history of art, culture, and literature. By analyzing how Jewish experiences have depicted and shaped art, the collection begins to answer how art, in its turn, depicts and shapes Jewish experience.

The intersection of visual expression and Jewish experience has long been fraught with ambiguity and confounded by the most basic attempts to define its parameters. Such questions as "what is Jewish art?" or "who is a Jewish artist?" address thorny issues of the role of art in a religion that is traditionally thought to eschew graven images or any figurative representation. In the past, studies of Jews in the plastic arts were frequently attempts to catalog and "claim" as many artists as possible who were born of Jewish parents. Now, however, contemporary studies of Jews and the visual arts are often part of a more sophisticated dissection of Jewish and minority group identity that increasingly cuts across disciplinary boundaries (Lauren B. Strauss, Complex Identities, American Jewish History, Vol. 89, No. 4, December 2001, pp. 464-467).

No effort is made to isolate specific Jewish characteristics in art—there's no search for a "Jewish style." Rather, as the introduction states, "By Jewish art, the coeditors mean an art created by Jewish artists in which one can find some aspect of the Jewish experience, whether religious, cultural, social, or personal." Thus, [...] in each case convincingly, [...] modernism engages the world obliquely, for no explicit Jewish subjects appear in any of these artists' works (Carl Belz, Complex Identities, Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, Vol. 21, No. 2, Winter 2003, pp. 187-189).

Jewish Expression and the Arts, Contact, Steinhardt Foundation, Vol. 8, No. 1, 2005.

Art, Jewish Virtual Library, 2008.

• Rosen, Aron. Imagining Jewish Art: Encounters with the Masters Chagall, Guston, and Kitaj, London: Modern Humanities Research Association and Maney Publishing, 2009.

• Stirling. The Myth of Aniconism: Image, Perception, and Power within Judaic Art: A Brief Examination of Figurative Representation in Conservative and Liberal Jewish Movements, Musings: The Interface Between Art and Society, 2010.

• Long, Rose-Carol Washton, Matthew Baigell, and Milly Heyd, eds. Jewish Dimensions in Modern Visual Culture: Antisemitism, Assimilation, Affirmation, Brandeis UP, 2010.
This collection of previously published scholarly essays analyzes the art world of the late 19th and 20th century regarding its Jewish dimensions. The subtitle is alliterative but arch. The authors concern themselves with revealing the anti-Semitic aspects of the art, the artists, and the critics of the period. Since the book is part of the Tauber Institute for the Study of European Jewry Series, it is focused exclusively on the European landscape, and, not surprisingly, concerned with the stereotypical depiction of Jews by artists (some of whom were supported by Jewish patrons and dealers) and the prejudices of the so-called cultural elite. Some of the topics are interesting because they deal with familiar artists such as Toulouse Lautrec, George Grosz, and Otto Dix or topics such as Dadaism or the Jewish Museum in Prague. (The Dada Manifesto was written by Tristan Tzara, a pseudonym for Shmuel Rosenstock, who along with Man Ray, rejected his Jewish roots.) What is most disturbing is the tracking of the negative attitude toward modern art as being a by-product of the xenophobia developing in Europe and its resulting antiforeign (read, anti-Semitic) attacks. It is well-known that Edgar Degas joined the virulently anti-Semitic anti-Dreyfusards. The Jews were perceived as non-producers, living off the products of others, depicted as financial wizards and demons, and even blamed for Germany’s defeat in World War I. The discussion of the art of the Ecole de Paris, noted for the large number of Jewish, as well as other foreign- born artists working in Paris between the wars who were identified negatively by the French, is well-known in the history of that period. The essay by Romy Golan is a well-documented reiteration.
The collection is divided into three sections, presumably relating to the subtitle: Critical Responses to Modernism and Judaism; Coded Representations; and Affirmation. Included are essays on such disparate topics as Georges Sorel, Julius Meier-Graefe, or Michael Sgan-Cohen’s Hinneni and the Yiddish Group from Lodz in the immediate post-World War I years. The intersection of art and Jewish history in the essay on the Jewish Central Museum in Prague by Dirk Rupnow will be of interest to researchers of the Nazi’s diabolical plans for preserving Jewish culture, especially since it includes new information on the plan and its aftermath. Similarly, those interested in the impact of the Communist era on Jewish artists, whose embrace of their Jewish identity was ironic since they knew almost nothing about Judaism, will find a lucid analysis in the essay by Matthew Baigell on “Soviet Artists, Jewish Images.” Well-known artists, including Vitaly Komar, Mikhail Grobman, and Ilya Kabakov were permitted in limited fashion to explore folklore, the stories of Sholom Aleichem being a primary source of subject matter. Post-World War II architects are discussed in terms of their relationship to the Holocaust.
Each essay concludes with footnotes (more than 50 for most of them) attesting to the extensive research supporting the topics under discussion. In selecting these essays for inclusion in Jewish Dimensions in Modern Visual Culture the editors have provided a nuanced examination of factors in visual art of the modern era that have been influenced consciously or not by historic attitudes toward Jews (Esther Nussbaum).

• Baskind, Samantha, and Larry Silver. Jewish Art: A Modern History, Reaktion Books, 2011.
Covering nearly two millennia, Jewish Art: A Modern History examines the art made by Jews across Europe, America and Israel. Looking at the work of European artists including Moritz Daniel Oppenheim and Maurycy Gottlieb, Camille Pissarro and Marc Chagall, to those in the United States, such as Miriam Schapiro and Eva Hesse, Barnett Newman, and Archie Rand, as well as contemporary Israeli artists, Jewish Art provides a comprehensive, probing and lucid account of a complex subject.
The book provides a chronological, geographic and thematic framework, to examine Jewish artists against the background of an emerging modernity. The shifting Jewish identities are discussed, as well as the effects of the diaspora and anti-Semitism, which are woven directly into analyses of specific works of art.
The authors ask "what is Jewish art?" and examine the ambiguities of the Jewish experience, both religious and cultural. Rather than providing reductive classifications of the subject, they consider the variety of ways Jewish artists have defined themselves and their works.
The book offers a coherent discussion of the vexed question of what constitutes Jewish art today.

The authors of this historical survey of Jewish art [...] are not overly troubled by questions of definition. They accept that no definition of Jewish art has universal validity. Rather than engage in "border policing", separating Jewish art works (or artists?) from the rather greater number of non-Jewish ones, they prefer to identify the "Jewish elements" in artistic identity. This way they seek to avoid "reductive classifications or essentialism". They conclude:

Jews are not just members of a faith, not just members of a community, nor are they even primarily identifiable with a single modern nation state. But their Jewish identity, however determined in all its fluidity and variability, often impresses itself on their actions, including creative participation in the modern art world.

This understanding of Jewishness as a matter of Jewish self-understanding (so to speak) might be thought limitingly personal and neglectful of larger cultural and intellectual -including theological- determinants. But it is perhaps as good a delimiting stratagem as any other and it yields a rich, diverse list of artists for Baskind and Silver to write about (Anthony Julius).

The authors relate the artists and their work to their Jewish experience no matter how slight their religious affiliations may be. Jewish experience is discussed as the feeling of being the "Other" in society, the diasporic effect on one’s identity, the social conscience as a heritage derived from Biblical teachings, the Holocaust as a profound inspiration for powerful images, and the homeland experience of Israel. The text includes discussions of well-known European artists such as Amadeo Modigliani and Chaim Soutine, whose work rarely referenced any Jewish symbols, along with Isidore Kaufmann and Maurycy Gottlieb, representative of several artists whose subject matter is Jewish. It is a given that Jewish artists were influenced by prevailing artistic modes and political climate as proven by such Russian artists as El Lissitzky and Naum Gabo, while others, like Marc Chagall and Issachar Ryback, were inspired by Jewish folk images. The section on American Jewish artists includes the familiar artists, such as Max Weber, Jack Levine, Larry Rivers, Eva Hesse, and Ben Shahn. The real strength of the book is the discussion of lesser known artists such as Henry Mosler, Moses Jacob Ezekiel, Abraham Wolkowitz, and Audrey Flack. The chapter "Art and the Holocaust" includes artists whose images range from horrific to allegorical; in "Home to Israel," the images range from idealized to neo-realism (Esther Nussbaum).

A Jewish literature is easy to identify. But defining Jewish art is a task of Talmudic complexity, as a new book, Jewish Art, makes clear (Adam Kirsh, Seeing Double, Tablet Magazine, 11 October 2011).

• Abramson, Glenda, ed. Encyclopedia of Modern Jewish Culture, Routledge, 2013.

Art in Israel

• Zalmona, Yigal. A Century of Israeli Art (2010), English translation by Anna Barber, Lund Humphries, in association with the Israel Museum, 2013.

Ruth Kestenbaum Ben-Dov, State of the Art: One Hundred Years of Creativity, served on your Coffee Table, Haaretz, 19 August 2013:

[...] A Century of Israeli Art offers an incisive look at Israel’s visual arts and how they reflect a changing society. The original Hebrew version accompanied the 2010 opening of the first permanent exhibition of Israeli art at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. [...]

Heavy both in literary and figurative terms, the text describes local art through the lens of the discourse of identity - or more accurately, identities - in an attempt to follow the development of complex and often contradictory trends that combine to form a distinct Israeli culture. Thus, art, society and historic events are viewed here as intertwined. In the opening words of the author, "Our story will be told with particular attention to the ways in which art derives and receives meaning from its socio-political context. The world, therefore, makes frequent appearances, even if art is our main protagonist." [...]

The conflict between personal expression and the demand for socially involved art can also be an inner one, as touchingly described in the sections on Marcel Janco (‏(1895-1984, whose artistic personality somehow managed to incorporate disparate images and styles deriving from the avant-garde European Dada movement, heroic Zionism, tragic views of war and displacement and pure abstraction.

Attitude toward the East

A core theme that runs through Zalmona’s book is the changing attitude of Israeli artists toward the East, and in particular toward the image of the Arab, versus their relationship with the West. Discussing this issue in relation to the earlier works in the book, Zalmona writes: "In some respects, the Zionist view of the East is a specific example of Orientalist ideology, that is, of a Western perception of the East. At the same time, however, the East is the ancient source of the Jews' history and ultimate destination as they return to that source ... And to complicate the question of who identifies with whom even further, the Jew knew that in Europe, he himself was the Semitic Other. In other words: For Christian Europeans, the East was just 'there'; for the Jews, it was simultaneously 'there' and 'here.'"

The descriptions and analysis of numerous artworks in the book refer to this tension. For example, in The Four Matriarchs, by Abel Pann (1926). This European-born painter imagined the biblical foremothers as a group of Bedouin women, natives of the East, yet portrayed them using Western realistic painting techniques.

Reuven Rubin celebrated the birth of the Zionist pioneer as the "new Jew" in First Fruits (1923), using the Christian format of the triptych to lend sanctity to the scene, yet eschewing Western perspective in favor of a simpler and more innocent Eastern ‏(including Eastern Christian‏) view of the landscape and its inhabitants. The latter include the muscular and partially undressed pioneering man and woman, bearing the fruits of their labor. To their left is a modestly dressed Yemenite Jewish couple with a naked baby, who are also presented as part of the middle panel, reflecting the central theme of Jewish re-connection with the land. Their Easternness renders them "authentic representatives of the pre-exilic Israelite nation," contrary to many images of Diaspora Jews of European origin, often depicted in the period’s works as sickly and frail, such as is in Rubin’s own self-portrait from before his immigration to Palestine. The two side panels of the triptych portray the Arab inhabitants of the land; they are extolled for their perceived physicality and harmony with nature, yet, in contrast to the Jewish pioneers, they are passive and unproductive, either herding sheep or merely sleeping.

In the sculpture named after the biblical hunter Nimrod (1939) Itzhak Danziger turned to pagan and mythical figures of the ancient Near East, circumventing the image of the Arab through what Zalmona calls a "cultural bypass," to create a new Hebrew icon that severs its connections to the Jewish past.

Many pages and decades later, Tsibi Geva’s handling of the keffiyeh pattern in the traditional Arab headdress ‏(Keffiyeh: Homage to Asim Abu Shakra, 1992‏) is described by Zalmona as evoking a myriad of diverse political, cultural and artistic identities: for Palestinians, a symbol of resistance to Israel; for Israelis, both a threatening signifier of violence, yet also a reminder of a not-so-distant past when it was worn by sabra farmers and fighters as a sign of belonging to the land and region. The dialogue with the keffiyeh is further deepened when analyzed through an art historical perspective: On the one hand, it is a flat, Eastern decorative pattern that comes from "low" folk art; on the other, a grid, which is the basic template of American modernist abstract art in its search for the sublime. In Zalmona’s reading, though Geva realized that he could not escape his Western artistic consciousness, he could comment about himself and his attitude to the East through expropriating motifs such as the keffiyeh and using them in a Western artistic discourse, enabling viewers "to experience the chronic Israeli vacillation between identities."

The above small taste from this extensive volume reveals how Zalmona chooses to tell the story of Israeli art and some of the premises on which the book is founded. The time frame in its title asserts that a distinct body of work called Israeli art came into being with the modern Zionist movement. Since this movement was led mainly by male European Jews with a secular outlook, seeking to build a new identity in the Land of Israel, their ideological and aesthetic preferences dictated the works deemed central to the new culture-in-the-making, and these are the works most highlighted in these sections of the book.

Though local women artists are featured relatively prominently, other outlooks and works - pre-Zionist, Eastern, and both local religious Jewish and non-Jewish ones - are given marginal, perhaps token, attention throughout most of the book. When they are included, they fulfill the role of "others" in relation to the main drama.

Overturning the narrative

It is in the latter part of A Century of Israeli Art, describing contemporary art, when certain divergent viewpoints and identities receive in-depth consideration. These are specifically the ones presented as overturning the hegemonic Israeli narrative - a change in emphasis that says a lot about the ideological transformation that the Israeli cultural elite, of which the author is a member, has undergone, while also reflecting worldwide post-modern tendencies. Works that are read by Zalmona as representing post-Zionist approaches are now granted center stage, and even regarded as representing the mainstream mindset among today’s young Israeli artists. In this context, he presents Adi Ness’ photographs of male soldiers as "critiques of the mythology of the Israel Defense Forces," in their subversive stance toward the ethic of self-sacrifice, as well as through their hints of homoeroticism.

It is intriguing to contemplate who the current unfashionable-yet-serious others are, whose work is now being marginalized - certainly not those who forgo complexity and questioning, but perhaps those who reject such a sweeping definition as "the paralyzing ideological charisma of rootedness" ‏(which Zalmona deems one of the causes of today's artists' attraction to previously taboo themes‏), and who seek new forms of community and belonging. A search for connection may then become visible from within works previously interpreted as primarily deconstructing an existing ethos, such as many of Ness' photographs.

Sigalit Landau’s DeadSee [2005], the penultimate image in the book, offers a potent metaphor for re-framing the linear passage from wholeness to disintegration that is traced in Zalmona’s account, into a cyclical and unending one, as the circle of floating watermelons and body unravels but is then recreated ‏(and unraveled again‏).

The above discussion of meaningful voices from past and present that are absent from A Century of Israeli Art does not discredit its content but rather opens the door to different ones. Documenting a relatively new canon of art should be done via the acknowledged artists and movements within it. It is then the role of those unseen and unheard to question that canon and tell their alternative stories.

In terms of structure, A Century of Israeli Art progresses chronologically, divided in large part into chapters devoted to individual decades. Thankfully, this structure is not adhered to strictly, and cross-cutting themes, short biographies of individual artists, and in the case of the statue Nimrod, a definitive work of art, are allowed to deviate from the form. Though at times this reader felt that an obligation to include all "famous" Israeli artists threatened to weigh down the book, for the most part it manages to transmit an enormous amount of information while relating a deep art-historical saga. This feat is accomplished by maintaining a close connection with the visual experience throughout, giving great respect to the artworks themselves, and drawing insights from their detailed study. Indeed, there are moments in the book that remind us that alongside awareness of the socio-political context of art there remains the basic and personal experience of a viewer being moved by a single work, such as the two loving and poetic pages devoted to Yehezkel Streichman’s 1951 Portrait of Tsila - a study of the makings of home, family and painting itself, all in an intimate Tel Aviv interior.

Other items to explore
Hand of God
Wharhol's Chosen People


Art and the Holocaust

Art in the Ghettos and the [Concentration] Camps during the Holocaust
by Pnina Rosenberg

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they banned all art which they regarded as subversive – i.e., modern, avant-garde, Communist, Jewish, Negro – or to use their term, degenerate. The fate of this art and its creators was very clear: both should be eliminated from society. Degenerate works of art were removed from museums, galleries, and other collections; Jewish artists were not allowed to pursue their careers, lost their teaching positions, and were permitted to display their works only in the premises of the *Juedischer Kulturbund. These degenerate works were assembled and put on show in Munich 1937 in the exhibition called "Degenerate Art" (Entartete Kunst), which was accompanied by vulgar and provocative quotations, accusing the artists of causing all the malaise of society and the world, thus warning the public of the dangers of such subversive artists.

Although Nazi laws should have been fully implemented in the concentration camp world, in many camps artistic creativity flourished and some of the works produced there were shown in exhibitions. Thus, ironically, the only place where these undesirable artists could produce and exhibit art was in their place of confinement.

During the Holocaust a tremendously rich variety of works of art were produced in the ghettos, hiding places, and camps of Nazi-occupied Europe. It was produced in extermination camps like Auschwitz, in the "model" camp of There-sienstadt, in transit camps like Westerbork in the Netherlands and Malines in Belgium, and in the network of camps set up throughout France, such as Drancy and Gurs. All these artists, whether professional or amateur, men or women, young or old, had one thing in common – they had been labeled undesirables, interned in the camps, cut off from society, and ordained to be victims of the Nazi Final Solution.

Artistic creation fulfilled many functions. It gave the artists a sense of self-assurance and allowed them to feel some connection with their past life as artists. It provided a way to pass the many hours of enforced idleness. It had barter value – the paintings that were commissioned by other inmates or by camp officials could be exchanged for food or other favors (such as smuggling out mail or some other improvement in conditions). Above all, art was the only means whereby the inmates could protest against their situation. They hoped that their protest would be heard beyond the barbed wire fences in the outside world, with the help of clandestine couriers mainly from the various welfare organizations and religious representatives who were permitted to enter the camp. Most of the paintings have documentary value, as the artists were aware of the necessity of recording for posterity the world in which they were imprisoned. Art, of course, does not merely portray an objective reflection of reality, but rather shows it through the personal prism of the artist. In other words, the works of art reflect the changing moods and feelings of the inmates/artists/witnesses.

Although the ghettos and the camps were isolated from each other certain themes were prevalent in these works of art. They include depictions of the barbed wire fences and the watchtowers, views of the camps, the daily routine, such as searching for food, attempts at personal hygiene, sickness and death, as well as landscapes and portraits. The common element in all these works is the need to portray and document in the closest detail the tragic and absurd circumstances in which the inmates found themselves. Such a situation was completely unforeseeable and the inmates were in no way prepared for this unimaginable nightmare which recurred in all the various ghettos and camps.


The works that survived, frequently as the result of astounding resourcefulness, had these common themes regardless of whether they had been produced in Eastern or Western Europe, by professional artists or amateurs. About a quarter of the works are portraits, a fact that is not surprising. Portraying a face or a figure was in itself an act of commemoration, confirming the existence of the individual in a world where existence was so uncertain and arbitrary. These portraits were often used to send greetings to inmates' relatives, to show that they were alive and well. This explains why we frequently find the name of the subject of the picture next to the artist's signature, along with the date and place. It also explains why the figures in the portraits have a slightly better appearance than in reality, for the artist wanted to send a positive message and not show the misery of their situation. These portraits are in many cases the last record of people who soon afterwards were sent to their deaths.

Aizik-Adoplhe Féder (Odessa 1887–Auschwitz 1943) was interned in Drancy, on the outskirts of Paris, where he drew portraits of people from all walks of life who were interned in the camp – workers and intellectuals, observant Jews, women, teenagers, children and infants. Most of the inmates, especially the women, look well, and, except for the additional verbal information alongside the portrait – date and location of the work – there is no indication that the subjects are imprisoned in Drancy, a camp that was also known as the ante-chamber of Auschwitz.

Féder was part of the "Ecole de Paris," a group of artists, most of them Jews, who immigrated from Western Europe to Paris, hoping to establish their artistic careers there. Many of those artists such as *Benn (Ben-Zion Rabinowicz; Bialystok 1905–Paris 1989), Abraham-Joseph Berline (Niejine, Ukraine 1894–Auschwitz 1942), Jacques Gotko (Gotkowski; Odessa 1900–Auschwitz 1943), David Goychman (Bogopol, Ukraine 1900–Auschwitz 1942), Isis-Israel Kischka (Paris 1908–Paris 1973), Savely Schleifer (Odessa 1881–Auschwitz 1942), and Zber (Fiszel Zilberberg; Plock, Poland 1909–Auschwitz 1942) were interned in various French camps such as Compiègne, Beaune-la-Rolande, Pithiviers, and Drancy, where they portrayed their co-inmates as well as themselves. The portraits usually carry identifying inscriptions, such as Kischka's Portrait of Uze, Internee in the Compiègne Camp, 29/3/42, or Portrait of Goychman by Kischka, 787122, 20/3/42, giving the artist's camp identification number alongside his name as a signature. Some of the portraits bear moving dedications, which attest to their amicable relationship.

Malva Schalek (Prague 1882–Auschwitz 1944), a daughter of a well-to-do, cultured Jewish family in Prague, established her reputation as an artist in Vienna, specialized in portraits, and was interned in Theresienstadt, where she continued painting her fellow inmates. Many of the portraits Schalek produced in the camp were commissioned, and she received food in payment, a practice which was not uncommon. Artists were commissioned by both inmates and by camp and ghetto administrators, in most cases asked to copy portraits of relatives from photographs or do their own likeness. In turn they received favors like better food or smuggled clandestine letters. This was experienced and attested by many artists such as Halina Olomucki (Warsaw 1919– ), who while interned in the Majdanek camp was commissioned by the head of the block to decorate the walls of the building. In return she received improved food rations. She used some of the materials she was given officially to paint her fellow women inmates clandestinely. From Majdanek she was transferred to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and there too she was a "commissioned artist" for the Germans. For this she received more substantial food, which helped her to survive. Esther Lurie (Liepaja, Latvia 1913–Tel Aviv 1998), while interned in the Kovno (Kaunas) ghetto, was commissioned by the Council of Elders (Aeltestenrat) to record ghetto life; to this end they arranged that she would not be engaged in any forced labor; later on when, while interned in Stutthof, the artist was asked by women inmates who had boyfriends to draw their portraits in return for a slice of bread. The painter-musician Isaac Schoenberg (Colmar, Alsace 1907–Auschwitz 1942), who was interned in Pithiviers, wrote to his beloved in Paris that he had to decline some of the inmates' requests to do their portraits, although he was paid more than the other artists in the camp, since he was engaged in producing her likeness from photographs, an activity which enabled him to endure life in the camp. Even amateur artists such as Etienne Rosenfeld (Budapest 1920–Paris 1995) were commissioned by their fellow inmates to draw their or their relatives' portraits, as is attested in his letters from the Drancy camp.


Another theme was the portrayal of the camps, particularly the barbed wire fences and watchtowers, which over time have become symbols of the Holocaust. They were part of the everyday experience of the prisoners, a constant reminder that they were confined in a closed camp, cut off from the society of which they had been an integral part up to a short while before. The barbed wire fences are a dominant element in many pictures. They appear in landscapes and genre paintings, while in some cases they have become the actual subject of the picture. Sometimes the fences are shown as a spider's web in which the figures are entangled, as, for example, in the aquarelle by Lou Albert-Lazard (Metz 1895–Paris 1969), depicting women imprisoned in the Gurs camp (France). Albert-Lazard, a German Jew who immigrated to Paris in the 1920s and was interned as a German alien, portrays the women as trapped by the barbed wire fence. Despite the delicacy of the painting, the barbed wire fence restricts their movements and closes in on them like a wall. The imprisoning barbed wire fence and the threatening watchtower, with an all-seeing eye at the top, are the central elements in the drawings and prints done by Jacques Gotko. At times, there is even an element of humor, with the artist painting laundry hung out to dry on the fence, as did the amateur artist Hanna Schramm (Berlin 1896–Paris 1978), a socialist activist who had sought refuge in France and was interned in Gurs on the outbreak of the war and depicted the miserable life there in ironic-humoristic drawings. But, however depicted, the prevalence of this motif stresses the sense of confinement the inmates experienced.


The forced communal life in ghettos and camps meant living in extremely crowded conditions with the need for privacy denied, no matter what race or sex the inmates were or what social standing they had enjoyed in their previous existence. The feeling of suffocation and the lack of private space is depicted by Malva Schalek in various aquarelles she produced in Theresienstadt. In many of her paintings she depicts the activity, or lack of it, in the camp. Sometimes she draws the interior as crowded and claustrophobic, with women and children lying or sitting on the triple-layered bunks, surrounded by bundles and suitcases. In others she portrays inmates reading or lying down. Similar depictions were produced by Osias Hofstaetter (Bochnia, Poland 1905–Ramat Gan, Israel 1994), who immigrated to Belgium, from where he was sent, after the Nazis invaded this country, to the French internment camps of Saint Cyprien and Gurs, where he depicted the forced idleness of men in and out of the barracks, as well as the overcrowdedness.

Some interior scenes, as those done by Jane Lévy (Paris 1884–Auschwitz 1943) in Drancy or Emmy Falck-Ettlinger (Lubeck 1882–Bet ha-Shtitah, Israel 1960) in Gurs, are characterized by extreme order and cleanliness. They depict kitchen utensils and personal items, a kind of desire to create a feeling of intimacy, warmth, and domesticity. Yet these works evoke a feeling of desolation and emptiness which even the domesticity of the interior cannot overcome.

Countless paintings show everyday, routine activities – bathing, washing one's hair, going to the toilet – since these basic human acts could no longer be taken for granted in the surroundings the inmates now found themselves in. Bathing was extremely difficult, as the water supply was completely inadequate for all the inmates and available only a few hours a day and often had to be done outdoors. Going to the toilet was no less embarrassing. The most intimate bodily functions had to be performed in public, adding to the dehumanization of the inmates. This may seem trifling compared to the acts of mass murder that were taking place at the time, but it should be remembered that the daily life of the inmates consisted in trying to meet the numerous "trifling" needs that are basic to civilized human life.

Many artists depict these activities, sometimes in humoristic drawings or aquarelles. Karl Schwesig (Gelsenkirchen, Germany, 1898–Duesseldorf 1955), a German communist who had fled from Germany after Hitler's rise to power and was a political refugee in Belgium, was interned in four different French camps. From his vast experience he depicted daily life, which became worse with the time. Many of his drawings illustrate the way the inmates were cooped up with a lack of hygienic facilities, as did other artists in the various camps – all attesting to the embarrassment and humiliation which accompanied these activities.


The inmates suffered constantly from hunger, which weakened them both physically and mentally. Hunting for food was one of the main occupations of the camp inmates. Many paintings portray the subject of food, or the lack of food, ranging from lining up to get the daily rations (Leo Haas, Opava, Czechoslovakia 1901–Berlin 1983), to guarding a scrap of bread as though it were a treasure (Lili Rilik-Andrieux, Berlin 1914–San Diego 1996), to rummaging through the garbage to find a bite to eat that might ease the pangs of hunger (Karl Schwesig; Sigismond Kolos (Vary, Transylvania 1899–?)). Pictures of this last scene serve to illustrate again the degradation that was forced upon the camp inmates.

In the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum at Auschwitz, there is a Memories Calendar (Kalendarz wspomnień) comprising 22 small drawings (18 × 10 cm), produced in Auschwitz in 1944 by Ewa Gabanyi, prisoner no. 4739. Gabanyi was born in Czechoslovakia to a Jewish family and interned on April 3, 1942. The pictures in her calendar are mostly theatrical and fantastic – surrealistic dances and balls, elaborate costumes, weird animals, and exotic scenery. One picture stands out as completely different, as she depicts a woman prisoner in her striped dress eating soup, with the inscription First soup in the camp (Zjada pierwswą Zoupkę Lagrową), dated April 27, 1942; hence her first hot meal came three weeks after her arrival in Auschwitz. A picture that seemed completely naturalistic turns out to have a surrealistic aspect in the world of the camps.


The huge numbers sent to camps and from there deported to the death camps were portrayed by various artists such as Dr. Karel Fleischmann (Klatovy, Czechoslovakia 1897–Auschwitz 1944) and Charlotte Buresova (Prague 1904–Prague 1983) in Thereisienstadt, David Brainin (Kharkov, Ukraine 1905–Auschwitz 1942) in Compiègne, Kurt-Connard Loew (Vienna 1914–Vienna 1980), and Julius-Collen Turner (Schivelbein, Germany 1881–?) in Gurs, and Leo Maillet (Leopold Mayer; Frankfurt-am-Main 1902–Switzerland 1990) in Les Milles. In these pictures the artists usually depict faceless masses rather than individuals being sent on their last journey. Yet in several pictures, amidst the endless lines of people stretching beyond the horizon, the artist reveals the face of one of the deportees, often a child clinging to its mother or a disabled old person guarded by soldiers with pointed weapons. These scenes depict with bitter irony the imbalance of power – the innocence and the helplessness of the deportees versus the power of the executioners.


The camps were often situated in beautiful areas, with snow-covered mountains in the distance or picturesque seaside villages, which were in sharp contrast to the misery of the life within the barbed wire fences (e.g., Karel Fleischmann, Karl Schwesig, Lou Albert-Lazard). Many artists painted these views, which provided them with a kind of connection with the outside world. The colors of a beautiful sunset, while serving to remind them of ordinary life, also brought home the indifference of nature to their suffering.


Artists sought to use their work as means to make contact with the outside world and let people know what was happening "on the other side of the fence." They did this despite the danger inherent in such activity, as can be seen in the fate of Leo Haas and Dr. Karel Fleischmann, inmates of There-sienstadt, who paid a high price for their efforts to smuggle their works out of the ghetto. In preparation for a visit of the Red Cross in summer 1944, the Germans searched the artists' quarters. They did this because they realized that the truth about their "model ghetto" was likely to be revealed in paintings being smuggled out of Theresienstadt. The artists refused to talk and after being interrogated and tortured were taken to a Gestapo prison. Eventually they were deported to Auschwitz, where Fleischmann died.

Contact with the outside world was of tremendous importance to the camp inmates, and in many cases it was art that paved the way. In some camps, such as Gurs and Compiègne, exhibitions were held. These exhibitions were visited by the Nazi administration and, in some cases, members of the public from the surrounding area. The inmates felt, for a brief moment, as if they had broken through the fence and were involved in the outside world. It should be noted, however, that these events were not mentioned in the press, which used to stress that the camp inmates were parasites and profiteers. Presenting them as creative and productive would not have fit this negative stereotype.

Artists arrived in the camps from all over Europe, from cities, towns and villages and from all levels of society. As we have seen, despite the artistic variety of their work, one unifying factor was common to them all – they all portrayed the grim reality and their cruel experiences, with a sense of longing for their former world which had disintegrated so totally.

The art of the Holocaust is unique in the history of art. In a state of hunger and destitution, with death a constant part of their daily existence, hundreds of artists did not allow the spark of the human spirit to be extinguished. In the universal language of art they portrayed the images of one of the darkest periods in human history.

Bibliography. Z. Amishai-Maisels, Depiction and Interpretation: The Influence of the Holocaust on the Visual Arts (1993); J. Blatter and S. Milton, Art of the Holocaust (1982); H. Fenster, Nos artistes martyrs (Undzere Farpainikte Kinstler) (Yid., 1951); M.S. Costanza, The Living Witness: Art in the Concentration Camps and Ghettos (1982); G. Green, The Artists of Terezin (1969); M. Novitch, Spiritual Resistance: Art from Concentration Camps 1940–1945. A selection of drawings and paintings from the collection of Kibbutz Loḥamei ha-Getta'ot, Israel. Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Philadelphia (1981); P. Rosenberg, L'art des Indésirables: l'art dans les camps d'internement français 1939–1944 (2003).

Art Influenced by the Holocaust
by Ziva Maisels

Reactions in the visual arts to the Nazi persecution of the Jews paralleled Adolf Hitler's rise to power and continue to this day. Unlike Holocaust Art – a name that designates the art produced by inmates in the ghettos and concentration camps (see above) – art that responded to the Holocaust has no clear name and its definition is highly complex. It was created by survivors as well as by refugees who fled to the free world before or during the war; by camp liberators who discovered the shocking truth of the Holocaust for themselves; by the children of survivors or refugees who carry in themselves the burden of memories, pain, and guilt transmitted to them from their parents; and by non-participants who may have lost relatives in the Holocaust or were simply shocked by it or by the idea that its lessons remain unlearned. Some artists reacted immediately, occasionally even anticipating events to come. Others – including survivors who had tried to turn their backs on their past – reacted to events that triggered their emotions: the discovery of the camps, the Eichmann trial, Israel's wars, or other examples of genocide. Such artists came from all religions – Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, etc. – and all nationalities, including Germans (e.g., Anselm Kiefer) who wish to express their own stance on the subject or to atone for the past. For some, the Holocaust was a specific event occurring in a set period of time; for others, it was an archetypal event which could be used to comment on other catastrophes – Hiroshima, genocide in Africa, or the Aids epidemic.

Moreover, artists had different motivations in using this subject. Some, such as Corrado *Cagli, documented the scenes on the spot or – like Audrey Flack and Nancy *Spero – on the basis of photographs, while others (for instance, William *Gropper and Leon *Golub) emotionally denounced cruelty and mass murder. Whereas survivors and their children often used art as therapy to recover from the past, most artists used it to make sure that the Holocaust would be remembered by memorializing it. Many reacted by affirming their Jewish identity, at first by depicting figures in prayer or the shtetl, as in the works of Max *Weber. More recently a few artists (such as Judy *Chicago) have begun to see the Holocaust itself as their sole means of Jewish identity. Still others, for example, Mark *Rothko and Karel Appel, responded in a highly personal manner by changing their style and subject matter in ways that are not self-evidently connected to the Holocaust but are revealed to be reactions to it on the basis of the artists' statements.

The artists' goals were often linked with the styles they chose to employ. For instance, Realism was used in witness reports as a means of confronting the spectator with the facts and convincing him of their truth, while Expressionism was used to express anger and heighten the denunciatory power of the work. Surrealism was often used to convey the idea that such events were taking place on "another planet," whereas Abstraction was a means of distancing the artist from the Holocaust and allowing it to be confronted from a safe place.

Although painters and sculptors had been working on the subject since 1933, it was the photographs and films taken by the liberators in 1944–45 that had the most immediate and lasting impact on the public at large. Appearing in magazines and newsreels, these reports turned everyone into a witness. It is for this reason that the most common images of the Holocaust in the public imagination are those they recorded: the mounds of corpses, the bald and emaciated survivors barely able to move, and the inmates crowded together behind barbed wire or in their bunks. Some of these images still inspire artists today (for instance, in the paintings of Natan Nuchi), but this source material has now been broadened to include the Nazis' own documentary snapshots of the ghettos, deportations, and executions as well as the identification photographs they took of the camp inmates, a type that influenced Aaron Gluska. Today new documentary photographs have been taken by artists who visit the camps. These images differ from the older ones in showing the camp as empty and clean, well-preserved monuments rather than the hellholes they were.

Several common motifs and themes run through all categories of Holocaust-related art. The primary image of the camp from the mid-1930s was of people behind barbed wire, an image used by John Heartfield because one of the few facts known then about the camps was that they were surrounded by barbed wire fences. This representation was reinforced after the camps were liberated, as photographers such as Margaret *Bourke-White took their stance outside the fence looking into the camp. The image was so pervasive and clearly understood that it could be suggested by including a single piece of barbed wire into an abstract composition, as was done by Igael *Tumarkin. Another primary symbol was the refugee, a subject documented by the refugees themselves (e.g., Marc *Chagall) and by those who wanted to state their plight. This image was transformed after the war by artists such as Lasar *Segall into that of the displaced person to represent survivors who were trying to find a place to stay. This subject slowly disappeared after 1948, as the State of Israel was seen as having solved this problem. It has recently been reinstated, as in a painting by Joan Snyder, in an attempt to identify Palestinian refugees with the victims of the Holocaust. Another image that was popular during the war was that of the Jewish partisan, especially those who participated in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising depicted in the monument by Nathan *Rapaport. Upheld at first as an image of Jewish pride in resistance to the Nazis, it was eventually supplanted by that of the Israeli soldier.

Other symbols became common only after the war, for instance the symbolic use of the crematorium chimney and the image of emaciated corpses or survivors, themes that grew out of the experience of liberating the camps and understanding what had happened there. Whereas the chimney and the survivors were relatively easy for Friedensreich Hundertwasser and George Grosz respectively to handle, the corpses were repugnant and many artists followed Pablo Picasso's lead in translating them into more stylized images. On the other hand, artists such as Zoran Music and Robert Morris later specifically portrayed the corpses in all their expressive reality to awaken the failed conscience of the modern world that continues to commit genocide.

All the above symbols were taken from the camp experience. But artists who were interested in learning moral lessons from the Holocaust also culled other images from religion and mythology to convey their ideas. Thus the victim can be portrayed through biblical symbols, such as the sacrifice of Isaac or Job who questions God, as in the works of Leonard *Baskin and Jakob *Steinhardt respectively. These subjects could also be used to vent anger against God for allowing the Holocaust to happen, as in the work of Mordecai *Ardon. Marc Chagall led the way in depicting the victims as the crucified Jewish Jesus, in an attempt to make Christians understand what was occurring. Resistance to Nazism was symbolized by Jacques *Lipchitz by means of David slaying a Nazi Goliath and Prometheus slaying the vulture.

The portrayal of the Nazis was more difficult: their portrayal as monsters or demons as in the works of Marcel *Janco ignores the fact that those who carried out the Holocaust were human beings. However, portraying them realistically as humans, as Gerhart Frankl did, underplays the horrific dimensions of their deeds. Beginning with Lipchitz, some artists concluded that the problem lay not only with the Nazis, and used their art to warn mankind that there is a beast lurking within us which must be tamed lest we cause other holocausts. Others, such as Matta and *Maryan Maryan, took a more pessimistic view of man's monstrous nature and portrayed ambiguous figures whose nature cannot be clearly defined as good or evil.

The Holocaust also prompted Jewish artists to take a renewed look at their Judaism. While some affirmed their faith and Jewish identity and others expressed their anger against God, a few stressed their lack of faith in the future of Judaism. Thus Samuel *Bak depicted a destroyed and patched-up Ten Commandments that will never be the same. Whereas the establishment of the State of Israel was at first seen by artists such as Chagall and Lipchitz as an answer to the Holocaust and a solution to the problems it caused, Israel's continuing wars – especially the threats to its existence in 1967, 1973, and 1991 – led artists such as Erich Brauer to see in each event a potential renewal of the Holocaust. Moreover, the resurgence of antisemitism in the 1980s caused R.B. *Kitaj and George *Segal to begin to deal with the Holocaust.

On the other hand, the conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians since 1967 have caused left-wing artists to adapt Holocaust imagery to this issue, with the Palestinians replacing the Jews. This generalization of Holocaust imagery is part of a wider phenomenon in which such images are applied to any current conflict in order to activate an inbred, unquestioning hatred against those who have been clothed in the despised Nazi imagery and an equally innate sympathy for those depicted as victims.

The newest developments in art inspired by the Holocaust can best be examined through three themes. First, children of survivors, such as Yocheved Weinfeld and Haim Maor, try to understand their parents' experiences by picturing themselves in their place and exploring how they would have reacted. The second theme – ghosts – is poignantly demonstrated by Shimon Attie's projections of old black and white photographs of the Jewish inhabitants of Berlin and Rome on the walls of these cities, so that they seem to be haunting their streets. The third subject is the expression of constant anxiety, a feeling Jonathan Borofsky explicitly connects with the Holocaust. Such new themes suggest that artists have not finished examining the Holocaust and that they will continue to find new means to express its relevance to the modern world.

Bibliography. Z. Amishai-Maisels, Depiction and Interpretation: The Influence of the Holocaust on the Visual Arts (1993); M. Baigell, Jewish-American Artists and the Holocaust (1997); M. Bohm-Duchen, Monica (ed.), Art after Auschwitz (1995); S.C. Feinstein (ed.), Absence/Presence: Critical Essays on the Artistic Memory of the Holocaust (2005); idem, Witness and Legacy: Contemporary Art about the Holocaust (1995); S. Hornstein and F. Jacobowitz (eds.), Image and Remembrance: Representation and the Holocaust (2003); S. Horn-stein, L. Levitt, and L.J. Silberstein. Impossible Images: Contemporary Art after the Holocaust (2003); D.G. Roskies, Against the Apocalypse (1984); Washington Project for the Arts. Burnt Whole (1994); J. Young, At Memory's Edge: After-Images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture (2000); idem, Texture of Memory: Holocaust Memorials and Meanings (1993).

Resources. Traditional Art ; Modern Art ; Art in Israel ; Art in the USA (Art, Jewish Virtual Library, 2008-2013).


Art in the USA

United States
by Samantha Baskind

The term Jewish American art, like the more generalized Jewish art, is fraught with complications and variously understood. Critics debate whether Jewish American art need only be art made by a Jewish American, independent of content, or if both the artist's and the artwork's identity must be Jewish. Indeed, working in myriad styles and adopting both figuration and abstraction, some artists address Jewishness and the more specific Jewish American experience, while others make art indistinguishable in subject from their gentile counterparts. If a Jewish American artist should be defined sociologically or by theme remains an open question, and thus in this essay Jewish American artists are accepted by either criteria, leaving the matter for the reader to decide.

Before 1900

While Jews arrived in America as early as 1654, they did not enter the visual arts in a meaningful way until the 19th century. The freedoms accorded Jews enabled them to participate in the plastic arts, but the loosening of religious strictures as well as uneasiness about the respectability of an art career disappeared slowly. Hesitancy was often the result of the Second Commandment, the prohibition against graven images. Myer *Myers was an 18th-century silversmith who made both lay and religious objects for colonial merchants. He created rimmonim for several synagogues, including New York's Congregation Shearith Israel and the Yeshuat Israel Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island. In the 19th century, a handful of Jews painted portraits. Wealthy patrons commissioned the brothers Joshua and John Canter (or Canterson) to record their visages. Theodore Sidney *Moïse, Frederick E. Cohen, and Jacob Hart Lazarus are other 19th century Jewish portraitists of note.

Solomon Nunes *Carvalho is the best-known painter from this period. In addition to making portraits of members of the Jewish community, he did allegorical portraits, including one of Abraham Lincoln (1865). Carvalho created a few biblical paintings and landscapes as well, but his fame rests on his work as a daguerreotypist for John C. Frémont's 1853 exploratory expedition through Kansas, Utah, and Colorado. Max *Rosenthal was the official illustrator for the United States Military Commission during the Civil War. Later, Rosenthal painted Jesus at Prayer for a Protestant church in Baltimore, presenting Jesus with phylacteries on his forehead and right arm. The altarpiece was promptly rejected. Henry *Mosler began his career as an artist correspondent for Harper's Weekly during the Civil War. Like many non-Jewish artists, Mosler went to Europe for artistic training. He soon became a painter of genre scenes, frequently picturing peasant life in Brittany, France. His canvas The Wedding Feast, which was exhibited at the Paris Salon, records Breton marriage customs (c. 1892).

The eminent sculptor Moses Jacob *Ezekiel made numerous portrait heads, including a bronze bust of Isaac Mayer Wise in 1899. The B'nai B'rith commissioned Ezekiel's large marble group Religious Liberty for the Centennial Exhibition of 1876, and in 1888 he designed the seal for the recently established Jewish Publication Society of America. Ephraim Keyser created commemorative sculptures, for instance President Chester Arthur's tomb at the Rural Cemetery in Albany, New York. Katherine M. Cohen studied with the famous sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens and made portrait busts. These early painters and sculptors worked independently and were not readily known to each other. They created in relatively divergent styles along the same trends as the larger American community. It was not until the 20th century that Jewish American artists began interacting and taking art classes together.


Among the large 1880 to 1920 influx of immigrants to the United States were two million Jews. Mostly from poor communities in Eastern Europe, these immigrants were eager to assimilate. The Educational Alliance, a settlement house on the Lower East Side of New York City where many immigrants went to learn American manners and customs, offered art classes starting in 1895. Art classes were discontinued in 1905, resuming in 1917. From the school's reopening until 1955, Russian immigrant Abbo Ostrowsky served as director of the institution. Many well-known artists studied at the Alliance, including the sculptors Saul *Baizerman, Jo *Davidson, and Chaim *Gross, and the painters Philip Evergood, Barnett *Newman, and Moses *Soyer. The Alliance sponsored art exhibitions as did other Jewishly identified venues in New York. In 1912 the Ethical Culture Society's Madison House Settlement arranged a show of Jewish Russian immigrant artists, such as Samuel Halpert, in which Gentile artists also participated. The People's Art Guild held over 60 exhibitions from 1915 to 1918. In May 1917, 300 works by 89 artists were exhibited at the Forverts Building (the Yiddish daily newspaper the Forward), of which over half were Jewish. Well-known philanthropists Stephen Wise, Judah Magnes, and Jacob Schiff helped sponsor the exhibition. From 1925 to 1927 the Jewish Art Center, directed by Jennings Tofel and Benjamin *Kopman, held exhibitions focusing on Yiddish culture.

In the early decades of the 20th century some artists, such as Abraham *Walkowitz, William Meyerowitz, and Jacob *Epstein, began their nascent careers by picturing imagery of the Lower East Side. The gentile observer Hutchins Hapgood described East Side imagery in his 1902 text, "The Spirit of the Ghetto" as typically Jewish. Characterizing such work as "Ghetto art," Hapgood named Epstein, Bernard Gussow, and Nathaniel Loewenberg as exemplars of the mode. To illustrate Hapgood's evocation of the cultural and religious nature of the Jewish people, Epstein made 52 drawings and a cover design for the book. Epstein later became an expatriate, settling in London and gaining fame as a sculptor.

The photographer Alfred *Stieglitz championed modernism in the 1910s. While most of the artists that Stieglitz supported were not Jewish, the avant-garde painter and sculptor Max *Weber enjoyed his patronage. An underlying tone of antisemitism, or at least an intense nativism, pervaded some discussions of modernism at this time. The conservative critic Royal Cortissoz described modernism as "Ellis Island art," while others termed it the art of aliens. Indeed, modernism was frequently associated with Jews, a position later adopted by Hitler.

Many artists addressed political, social, and economic issues, especially during the Great Depression. It has been argued that traditions of social justice impel Jewish artists to create imagery of the underdog. Although secular in theme, these works – influenced by the Jewish experience – would be recognized as Jewish American art even by critics who define the term in its strictest sense. Working as Social Realists in the 1930s, the *Soyer brothers (Raphael, Moses, and Isaac) observed the mundane details of life, like waiting in an unemployment line, with gentleness and compassion. Peter *Blume and Ben *Shahn were more overtly politically committed; Shahn made over 20 images decrying the ethnically biased trial and execution of Italian American anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. William *Gropper expressed his political sympathies as a cartoonist for the left-wing publications New Masses and the Yiddish daily Morning Freiheit. Some artists' work appeared in the Yiddish journal Schriftn and in The Menorah Journal, a periodical devoted to Jewish culture that also attempted at various times to define Jewish art.

Louis *Lozowick, who worked as a Precisionist painter of city scenes and at times as a Social Realist, was also an art critic for The Menorah Journal. In a 1924 article on Jewish artists who recently exhibited in New York, Lozowick mentions Theresa *Bernstein, William Gropper, and William *Zorach, among others. Although few of the names devoted their art to Jewish themes (at least at that time), Lozowick's identification of the artists as Jewish indicates that he, like many critics, understood the term Jewish artist as connoting the ethnic identification of the artist rather than the artist's subject matter. A year later Peter Krasnow explicitly defined Jewish art in The Menorah Journal as any art produced by a Jew regardless of subject. In this early period of Jewish integration into America, most artists tried to avoid this kind of discourse, fearing that such categorization would pigeonhole their work as Other or parochial. There was, however, ambivalence on the part of many artists. To be sure, even if artists shied away from the classification "Jewish artist," several still displayed their work at the aforementioned Jewish Art Center and the Educational Alliance, among other Jewish locales. The art exhibitions of the Yiddisher Kultur Farband (YKUF), a Communist organization dedicated to fighting fascism, were also quite popular. Established in September 1937 by the World Alliance for Yiddish Culture, YKUF's first art exhibition was held in 1938. Minna *Harkavy, Lionel *Reiss, and Louis Ribak were among 102 artists who showed work on both Jewish and non-Jewish material.

In 1936, nine Jewish artists formed a group they dubbed "The Ten" (the tenth spot was reserved for a guest artist). *Ben-Zion, Ilya *Bolotowsky, Adolph *Gottlieb, Louis Harris, Jack Kufeld, Marcus Rothkowitz (Marc *Rothko), Louis *Schanker, Joseph Solman, and Nahum Tschacbasov exhibited together for four years. That the artists shared a Jewish background is typically understood as a coincidence. No common style or theme pervades the group's work, but most members were committed to modernist developments.

In the 1940s Jack *Levine worked as a Social Realist, although he painted more satirically and expressionistically than did the practitioners of the mode in the thirties. Beginning in 1941, Levine painted and made prints of biblical figures and stories in addition to his politically motivated art. After his first biblical painting, Planning Solomon's Temple, Levine rendered hundreds more images inspired by the Bible's narrative. Often employing Hebrew labels to identify figures, Levine's biblical works, he explained, attempt to augment Jewish pictorial expression, which he felt was hampered by the Second Commandment. The Boston-born Levine began a lifelong friendship with Hyman *Bloom when the pair started studying art together at a Jewish Community Center in their early teens. Bloom also retained the human figure in an increasingly abstract art world, painting secular and religious matter in brilliant colors.


A number of the leading Abstract Expressionists were Jewish. Adolph Gottlieb, Philip *Guston, Franz *Kline, Lee *Krasner, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, and Mark Rothko are among several artists who eschewed representation in the late 1940s and 1950s. The style(s) in which the artists worked are difficult to generalize, but they typically painted on large canvases and were interested in spontaneous expression. Although abstract, Newman's painting has been understood as shaped by his Jewish sensibilities, in part because of titles like Covenant and The Name, and also because, it has been argued, his knowledge of Kabbalah influenced his "zip paintings," which can be read as symbolic of God and Creation. Some second-generation Abstract Expressionists were also Jewish. Helen *Frankenthaler and Morris *Louis stained unprimed canvases with thinned color that seemed to float on and through the canvas. Louis named a series of his paintings with letters from the Hebrew alphabet. Clement *Greenberg and Harold *Rosenberg, two of the main art critics who promulgated abstraction, were Jewish.

Although better known for his criticism of contemporary art, Rosenberg also wrote one of the canonical articles on Jewish art. Published in Commentary in July 1966, Rosenberg's sarcastic and provocative essay "Is There a Jewish Art?" continues to serve as a springboard for scholarly discussions of Jewish art in America and abroad. Influenced in part by the formalist concerns of Abstract Expressionism, Rosenberg argued that an authentic Jewish art must be defined stylistically.

Artists who worked as Social Realists during the 1930s turned their sensibilities toward the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Raphael Soyer made a lithograph titled Amos on Racial Equality (1960s), which quotes Amos in Hebrew and English and depicts a white woman carrying a black infant. Ben Shahn's lithograph Thou Shalt Not Stand Idly By (1965) portrays an oversized interracial handshake. The title comes from Leviticus 19:16 and is printed in Hebrew and in English at the top of the image. Artists of the next generation also addressed social issues. After the fact, R.B. *Kitaj comments on the integration of blacks into professional baseball with his painting Amerika (Baseball) (1983–84). Jewish-black relations have become strained since the civil rights movement, a situation Art *Spiegelman tackled with his cover design of a black woman kissing a ḥasidic man for the February 1993 issue of the New Yorker.

Two Jewish artists initiated the Feminist Art Movement. At the height of the Women's Liberation Movement, Judy *Chicago and Miriam Schapiro jointly founded the Feminist Art Program at the California Institute of the Arts in 1971. Chicago is especially known for her enormous multimedia installation The Dinner Party: A Symbol of Our Heritage (1974–79). Made with over 400 collaborators, The Dinner Party was created to raise awareness of a forgotten women's history in a male-dominated society. Audrey Flack and Barbara *Kruger are also important feminist artists; Flack's photorealist paintings comment on stereotypes of femininity and Kruger deconstructs power relations in her photomontage images. Recent scholarship has argued that many of the early feminist artists were Jewish because as perennial outsiders and as the children or grandchildren of radical immigrants, fighting for justice and equality was a natural heritage. With such a link, feminist art by Jews would also be considered "Jewish Art" by critics who feel that elements of the Jewish experience, spiritual or secular, must be a prerequisite for art to receive this label.

In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Jewish artists worked in diverse manners. Jim *Dine and Roy *Lichtenstein engaged a Pop idiom in the vein of Andy Warhol during the 1960s. Emerging into the public eye in the 1970s, Philip *Pearlstein paints figures in a flat, unemotional style that treats the human form with the same objectivity as the inanimate objects surrounding the model. Also painting figuratively, Alex *Katz typically fills his large canvases with the flattened, simplified heads and shoulders of his sitters rendered in crisp color. Sol *LeWitt explored and wrote about Conceptual Art in addition to making Minimalist sculpture, and Jonathan *Borofsky continues to make multimedia site-specific installations using his own life as source material. In contrast, sculptor and Process artist Richard *Serra asserts that his focus on the physical qualities of material and the act of creation leave little room for expressions of the artist's personality.

Some artists who mostly worked akin to the mainstream for the majority of their careers became interested in Jewish matter later in life. Raphael Soyer illustrated two volumes of Isaac Bashevis Singer's memoirs (1978, 1981) and two short stories by Singer for the Limited Editions Club (1979). Larry *Rivers also illustrated a Singer story for the Limited Editions Club (1984) and painted an enormous three-paneled painting tackling the nearly four-millennia history of the Jews called History of Matzah (The Story of the Jews) (1982–84). Husband and wife William Meyerowitz and Theresa Bernstein traveled to Israel 13 times after 1948 and painted many images of the land after pursuing a more traditional American art trajectory before this time. Chaim Gross began sculpting Jewish subjects in the 1960s. While Ben Shahn and Leonard *Baskin explored some Jewish topics early on, they more consistently embraced Jewish identity in the visual arts as they aged, notably with Haggadah illustrations done in 1965 and 1974, respectively. Earlier in the century Saul *Raskin (1941) illustrated a Haggadah with woodcuts.

The Holocaust in Jewish American Art

Many Jewish American artists have treated the events of the Holocaust. Nahum Tschacbasov's 1936 canvas Deportation shows a crowd of emaciated deportees restrained by a fence. Ben-Zion was a poet who turned to painting because he felt that words could not adequately express the horrors of fascism and later the Shoah. Exhibited as a whole in 1946, the series De Profundis (Out of the Depths): In Memory of the Massacred Jews of Nazi Europe comprises 17 expressionistic works conveying the artist's distress at the events of the Holocaust that also pay homage to those who perished by Nazi hands. Leon *Golub's lithograph Charnel House (1946) and the Burnt Man series of the early 1950s vividly describe victims being exterminated.

Interest in the Holocaust as a subject for art has only increased in the years since artists felt the immediacy of the tragedy. Audrey Flack's photorealist canvas World War II (Vanitas) (1976–77) presents a still life in collage format, including a Jewish star from her key chain and a photograph of the 1945 liberation of Buchenwald taken by Margaret *Bourke-White. Alice Lok Cahana, a survivor of several concentration camps, uses the visual to work through her memories of the Holocaust in semi-abstract mixed media images. Cahana's art, she explains, is her kaddish for those who perished. The sculptor George *Segal symbolically employs the biblical figures Eve, Abraham, Isaac, and Jesus in his Holocaust Memorial (1983), which overlooks the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco's Legion of Honor Park. Another Holocaust sculpture group by Segal is at the Jewish Museum in New York (1982). Judy Chicago's enormous installation Holocaust Project: From Darkness into Light (1985–93) is anchored by a 4½ by 18 foot tapestry titled The Fall, which portrays the disintegration of rationality. While united by an interest in imaging the unthinkable, Holocaust works by Jewish American artists differ greatly in approach, conception, and style.

Last Decade of the Twentieth Century

In the last decade of the 20th century, Jewish identity became an increasing concern in the visual arts. New York City's Jewish Museum investigated this phenomenon in the 1996 exhibition Too Jewish?: Challenging Traditional Identities. Paralleling a larger interest in multicultural difference by other marginalized groups, the 18 artists in the show explored Jewish consciousness, while also testing the viewer's and the art world's (dis)comfort with what was perceived by some as excessively conspicuous Jewishness. These highly assimilated younger artists portray vastly different concerns than their immigrant and first-generation predecessors. Long after Andy Warhol, Deborah Kass appropriates Pop techniques and fascination with celebrity in her portraits of Barbra Streisand (1992) and Sandy Koufax (1994). Titling her Streisand silkscreens Jewish Jackies (playing on Warhol's iconic silkscreens of Jackie Kennedy), Kass proffers the ethnic star while subverting American norms of beauty. Also influenced by Warhol, Adam Rolston's Untitled (Manischewitz American Matzos) (1993) asserts ethnicity into a once "pure" American consumer culture. Dennis Kardon's installation Jewish Noses (1993–95) presents an array of noses sculpted from 49 Jewish models, destabilizing the notion that the Jew can be categorized as a monolithic type.

Indeed, just as Kardon demonstrates that the Jew's body cannot be homogenized, neither can Jewish American art. As this essay has described, Jewish American artists (defined broadly) have worked in manifold fashions, partly and sometimes entirely influenced by larger trends, and at the same time making significant contributions in style and content. Jewish American art is a nascent field, rich in material and long due for further exploration.

Bibliography. Z. Amishai-Maisels, Depiction and Interpretation: The Influence of the Holocaust on the Visual Arts (1993); M. Baigell, Jewish-American Artists and the Holocaust (1997); M. Baigell, Jewish Artists in New York: The Holocaust Years (2002); S. Baskind, Raphael Soyer and the Search for Modern Jewish Art (2004); S. Goodman, Jewish Themes/Contemporary American Artists (1982); S. Goodman, Jewish Themes/Contemporary American Artists II (1986); J. Gutmann, "Jewish Participation in the Visual Arts of Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century America," in: American Jewish Archives (April 1963), 21–57; M. Heyd, Mutual Reflections: Jews and Blacks in American Art (1999); N. Kleeblatt and S. Chevlowe (eds.), Painting a Place in America: Jewish Artists in New York, 1900–1945 (1991); N. Kleeblatt, Too Jewish?: Challenging Traditional Identities (1996); P. Krasnow, "What of Jewish Art?: An Artist's Challenge," in: The Menorah Journal (December 1925), 535–43; L. Lozowick, "Jewish Artists of the Season," in: The Menorah Journal (June-July 1924), 282–85; H. Rosenberg, "Is There a Jewish Art?," in: Commentary (July 1966), 57–60; O. Soltes, Fixing the World: Jewish American Painters in the Twentieth Century (2003); S. Zalkind, Upstarts and Matriarchs: Jewish Women Artists and the Transformation of American Art (2005).

Resources. Traditional Art ; Modern Art ; Art in Israel ; Art and the Holocaust (Art, Jewish Virtual Library, 2008-2013).


Art in Modern Israel

by Haim Finkelstein and Haim Maor

Art in modern Ereẓ Israel can be dated from the first Zionist immigration to Palestine. Its evolution followed to a certain extent the pattern of the successive waves of immigration. One of the central questions concerning art in Ereẓ Israel, and later Israeli art, concerns identity, the question of assigning it precise defining characteristics that will distinguish it from the Jewish art of the Diaspora. The art in Ereẓ Israel of the first decades of the 20th century might be considered in terms of the continuity of the artistic and cultural traditions that the artists, who were all immigrants, had brought over with them. However, they also participated in the Zionist project of creating a new identity for an old nation creating itself anew. The creative awareness of artists of later generations fluctuated between, on the one hand, the desire to create a native art based on an indigenous independent language, an organic part of the land, and its physical and social conditions; and, on the other, the attraction to artistic developments overseas, which, particularly until the 1960s, were associated with Paris.

The Creation of the Bezalel School

The creation of new symbols of identity for the Jewish people in its ancient homeland was, indeed, at the heart of Boris *Schatz's life project. In 1906, Schatz (1867–1932) immigrated to Ereẓ Israel from Bulgaria. He was a painter and sculptor and had been head of the Royal Academy of Art in Sofia. In the year of his arrival he realized his dream of founding a school of arts and crafts in Jerusalem. He called it the *Bezalel School after the biblical architect of the Tabernacle. The founding of an art institute in Jerusalem in 1906 was an adventurous undertaking. The Jewish population of the Yishuv was small and the Orthodox were certain to protest vigorously against a school which might violate the biblical prohibition against the making of graven images. Nevertheless, Bezalel received the full backing of the Zionist Organization. The foundation of the school must be considered the beginning of genuine artistic activity. Until then the only art forms produced locally were by Arabs and the small Jewish communities of Jerusalem, Safed, and Tiberias. They consisted of arts and crafts and pictorial representations for devotional purposes. Schatz wanted to establish a cultural-artistic center that would advance the utopian vision of a Jewish home-land. He planned his school to train painters, sculptors, and craftsmen on two levels, which he was careful to define as the "technical level" and the "national level." The teachers he hired included local artisans (goldsmiths and Yemenite weavers) as well as Jewish artists who were already well established in Europe, such as Abel *Pann (1883–1963), Samuel *Hirshenberg (1865–1908), Ephraim Moses *Lilien (1874–1925), Zeev Raban (1890–1970), and Joseph *Budko (1888–1940). They all came from Eastern Europe and their artistic training had tended to lead them away from Judaism, but they had come to know both the horror of the pogroms and the nationalist revival in Europe. They now felt the need to use their academic knowledge to relate to the past as represented by the Bible and to the future as represented by the advent of Zionism. The Wandering Jew by Hirshenberg, the biblical pastels of Pann, and the reliefs of biblical figures and Zionist personalities by Schatz represented this outlook. In Lilien's illustrations and etchings, Yemenite Jews, Bedouins and Arabs in their traditional dresses served as models for images of biblical figures. The "Bezalel Style" was consequently quite eclectic, combining Oriental arabesques and Jugendstil flowing lines and decorative flatness. The themes combined biblical motifs, often in a Zionist perspective, and landscapes done in an idealist-utopian and Orientalist spirit. The products included jewelry, religious artifacts, ceramic tiles, postcards, illustrated books, and posters. Bezalel under the directorship of Schatz closed down in 1928 because of economic problems and because its generally conservative orientation seemed inimical to the modernist outlook. It reopened as the "New Bezalel" in the 1930s under the guidance of immigrant Jewish artists from Germany who oriented it toward the spirit of the Bauhaus School.

The 1920s

Early criticism of Bezalel is already in evident in the first important exhibition in Ereẓ Israel, organized in 1923 by the younger generation of Palestine artists. It was held in the so-called Tower of David in Jerusalem and included the work of Nahum *Gutman (1898–1980), Reuven *Rubin (1893–1974), Pinhas *Litvinovsky (1894–1985), and Israel *Paldi (1892–1979), all of whom had been pupils at the Bezalel. The work of newcomers such as Yossef *Zaritsky (1891–1985) was also shown. These young people had realized how anachronistic the style and ideas of their teachers had been and it was this group, who were mainly landscape artists, that formed the nucleus out of which Israeli art developed. With the new waves of immigration of 1919–25, Tel Aviv, a modern new city, became a lively cultural alternative to Jerusalem, drawing writers, artists, musicians, and theater people who felt the need to create a new local Hebrew culture. The three exhibitions of "Modern Artists" at the Ohel Theater during 1926–28 exhibited the modernist orientation of the young artists such as Nachum Gutman, Arieh Lubin (1897–1980), Moshe *Mokady (1902–1975), Israel Paldi, Reuven Rubin, Menachem *Shemi (1897–1951), Tziona *Tagger (1900–1988), Moshe *Castel (1909–1991), Yossef Zaritzky, and others.

The artistic alternatives these artists proposed were defined by a desire to become acculturated in the new Oriental surrounding and adopt the figure of the Arab as a model for the new "Hebrew." They went out to the landscapes in order to bring together the biblical past and the modern pioneers, the local Arabs, and the rooted Oriental Jews. Stylistically, they were guided by the need to create a national art, and, at the same time, to develop universal means of expression which would qualify them as modern artists. The conflict persisted throughout the 1920s and 1930s, even when definition of its components – national art, universalism – underwent slight alteration. Thus, in the 1920s, nationalism was equated with the ideals of pioneering and national renewal. The anti-Diaspora ideal and the demand for an original Hebrew culture found expression in stylistic primitivism (with affinity to the art of the Near and Far East) and exotic-naïve predilections which were realized in flattening and use of color planes with strong contours (corresponding, to some extent, to the expressionistic tendencies in European art which rejected the art of the museum and sought the roots of art in its primitive sources). At the same time, these artists showed a desire to belong to a modern artistic context as evinced by the borrowing of the trappings of modernism as represented by cubist and constructivist trends. These included simplification, even some distortion, and, to a certain degree, geometric construction of form, while preserving the realistic character of the work. Such artists as Tagger, Itzhak *Frenkel (1899–1981), and Mokady found the model in the work of André Derain, whose moderate modernism fitted the needs of a young art lacking in tradition.

The 1930s

In the late 1920s artists from Ereẓ Israel began flocking to Paris; this was accompanied by a tendency to abandon the former modernistic manifestations and folk-loristic character and by an intensified desire to root art in an established artistic tradition, all the more so since France in those years was marked by the trend of reverting to traditional artistic values. Paris offered the Ereẓ Israel artists a wide range of choices. There was the French landscape tradition of the 19th century (Corot, Courbet) and various impressionist and post-impressionist trends (Cézanne, the "intimist" artists). The Jewish School of Paris artists (Soutine, Mintchine, Kremegne, Menkès) offered an expressionism based on a dark palette with the paint laid thickly as an element conveying atmosphere and feeling. Artists such as Haim *Atar (Apteker; 1902–1953), Mokady, Frenkel, and Moshe Castel were shaped by the extreme expressionist manifestations, as represented by Soutine. Others, such as Shemi, Haim Gliksberg (1904–1970), Avigdor *Stematsky (1908–1989), Eliahu Sigad (Sigard; 1909–1975), exhibit a more moderate expressionism together with post-impressionist influences.

From 1933, artists and architects who had fled the Nazis constituted an important element of the art scene in Palestine. Some of them were associated with German avant-garde expressionist groups; others studied at the Bauhaus under Itten, Kandinsky, Klee, and the architect Gropius. Jakob *Steinhardt (1887–1968), Mordecai *Ardon (1896– 1992), Miron *Sima (1902–1999), Isidor *Aschheim (1891–1968), and Shalom *Sebba (1897–1975) came in this wave of immigration. With the exception of Sebba, they all settled in Jerusalem. They created a "Jerusalem School" which was dominated by certain aspects of German expressionism. These artists were preceded by two Viennese painters, Anna *Ticho (1894–1980) and Leopold *Krakauer (1890–1954). By the mid-1930s, some of the painters of the first generation of Bezalel graduates had begun to lose their originality and vitality. The coming of new artists, in particular Ardon and Sebba, revived the artistic scene. Mordecai Ardon, a graduate of the Weimar Bauhaus, achieved this through his efficient teaching at the Bezalel School. Sebba aimed at applying a European archaistic-primitivist tendency to a "localism" associated with the figures of shepherds and exerted his influence through stage designs and the decoration of public buildings.

The 1940s

World War II brought about a feeling of isolation from the outside world for the younger artists of the period, but also an increasing sense of a local identity that was antithetical to the image of the Jew of the Diaspora. This trend was exemplified by a group of writers and poets – Amos *Kenan, Benjamin *Tammuz, Aharon *Amir, Jonathan *Ratosh – who became known as the "Canaanites." They called for a separation of the Hebrew identity from Judaism and for its re-attachment to the ancient land of Canaan and its culture. Artists such as Yitshak *Danziger (1916–1977) and Aharon *Kahana (1905–1967) adopted a primitivist-Oriental imagery and borrowed the myths of the Ancient East. Danziger's sculpture Nimrod, with its archaism, nudity, and non-Jewish connotations, became a manifesto and a model to young artists such as Yehiel *Shemi (1922–2003), Shoshana Heiman (1923– ), and others. In the late 1950s, Danziger abandoned the "Canaanite" orientation and turned to abstract sculpture inspired by the Israeli landscape.

Alongside the "Canaanites," there was another group of artists whose orientation was geared to the expression of social issues. Among the "social realists" were kibbutz artists such as Yohanan Simon (1905–1976) and Shraga Weil (1918– ), who endowed daily life in the kibbutz with a religious-mystical romantic mood. There were "engaged" artists, with pronounced socialist leanings, such as Avraham *Ofek (1935–1990), Naftali Bezem (1924– ), Shimeon Tzabar (1926– ), Moshe Gat (1935– ), and others. In the 1950s, in the midst of the great waves of immigration to Israel, Ruth Schloss (1922– ) Gerson Knispel (1932– ), Bezem and Weil evoked in their works the hardships of the temporary homes for the immigrants in the ma'barot.

New Horizons

By 1945, Israel painters had become aware that the two Paris schools had ceased to exist. The Jewish painters had almost all disappeared. A younger generation of abstract painters had succeeded the post-cubist fauvist schools, and these painters now began to exercise a considerable influence on Israeli artists, including several veterans among them. The work of Aharon Giladi (1907–1993), Mordecai *Levanon (1901–1968), Litvinovsky, Paldi, and Frenkel evolved toward a more "modern" style, which in some cases resembled that of Rouault or Picasso, rather than that of the two Paris schools. The influence of Parisian abstraction could be seen in the work of Castel and Mokady. The most important event of this period was the creation of the New Horizons Group in 1947/48. The leaders were Zaritsky and Marcel *Janco (1895–1984), a painter of Romanian origin who had gained renown as a member of the dada movement in Zurich, and who arrived in Palestine in 1941. Around them were grouped Yeḥezkiel *Streichman (1906–1993) and Avigdor Stematsky. They all made a decisive contribution to the development of what became known as "lyrical abstraction," combining free, abstract style with a predilection for the expression of the light and color palate characterizing the local experience. Zaritsky followed his own path with some debt to Braque and French "intimisme"; Streichman and Stematsky were influenced by Picasso as well as by the lyrical trend in the School of Paris. They were joined by Avraham Naton (1906–1959), Kahana, and Yeḥiel Krize (1909–1968) who were still working on figurative though somewhat simplified themes; Jacob Wexler (1912–1995), Avshalom Okashi (1916–1980), Moshe Castel, Zvi *Mairovich (1909–1974), Arie *Aroch (1908–1974), and the sculptors Yitshak Danziger, Yeḥiel Shemi, and Moshe *Sternschuss (1903–1992). A little later the two leaders split over the choice of entries for Israel's first participation in the Venice Biennale. The reactions were so violent that Marcel Janco left the New Horizons Group after its first exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum in 1949. Zaritsky inherited the leadership. Group exhibitions were held until 1963. Although certain members returned later to figurative work (Kahana), or geometric abstraction (Naton), the formation of the group marked the end of the expressionist phase in Israel art and opened the way to new ideas.

The 1960s

Lyrical abstraction dominated Israeli art until 1955. Streichman and Stematsky, both teachers at the Avni Institute in Tel Aviv, played an important role in the formation of a second generation of artists that took abstraction to new directions, at times more extreme than those of their teachers. Of this group should be singled out Lea *Nikel (1918–2005), whose work was highly abstract, sensual, lively, and colorful, and Moshe *Kupferman (1926–2003), a Holocaust survivor whose paintings might be seen as representing both formal abstract qualities and thematic connotations associated with his personal experiences. The way was already clear, however, for new experimenters. The most important of these was Arie Aroch, whose work may be associated with the spirit of the poetic revolution of the 1950s, embodied by Nathan *Zach, David *Avidan, Meir Wieseltier, and Dalia *Ravikovitch. Aroch proposed an alternative to lyrical abstraction by developing a calligraphy that was based on children's drawings, developing uncommon techniques (rubbing, erasing, scratching) and utilizing motifs and forms taken out of "non-artistic" sources (such as street signs), Jewish manuscripts, and other readymade forms. Aviva *Uri (1927–1989) chose to work with pencil, charcoal, and oil sticks and to develop an expressive line that reflected anxieties and emotional tensions. The third artist to work away from lyrical abstraction was Igael *Tumarkin (1933– ), who in the early 1960s began making rather violent assemblages that combined readymade objects, expressionist brushwork, texts sprayed through matrices, art historical citations. These works, with their controversial political-social stand, echoed the new Pop Art and new Realism then current abroad. This new spirit, and the direct influence of Aroch and Uri, were seen in the work of several young painters, notably Rafi *Lavie (1937– ), who formed the "Group of Ten." Lavie's work, in its connotation of a municipal billboard, with its torn posters and dynamic and haphazard piling up of images, evoked the essence of the spirit of Tel Aviv. An exhibition entitled "The Want of Matter – A Quality in Israeli Art," curated by Sara Breitberg-Semel at the Tel Aviv Museum in 1986, provided a major summing up of all these trends of the 1960s.

The 1970s

The "Group of Ten" reflected the beginning of the trend of the "Americanization" of Israeli art that was augmented by the greater exposure to American culture brought about by volunteers who flocked to Israel following the Six-Day War and by young Jewish-American artists such as Joshua *Neustein (1940– ), who immigrated to Israel in 1964. The art of the 1970s mirrors American trends such as conceptual art, body art, performance, environmental art ("Earth Art"), and minimalist art. The years 1967–83, encompassing three wars, also brought about an eclipse of the former spirit of national identity, with the private identity replacing the collective dream. Michal Na'aman (1951– ) searched the limits of language in their application to national or sexual identity; the works of Michael Druks (1940– ), Motti Mizrahi (1946– ), Yocheved Weinfeld (1947– ), David Ginton (1947– ), Gideon Gechtman (1942– ), Moshe Gershuni (1936– ), and Haim Maor (1951– ) examine the human body and the limits of pain and suffering, at times in relation to war. Artists such as Avital *Geva (1941– ), Micha *Ullman (1940– ), Pinchas Cohen-Gan (1942– ), Dov Or-Ner (1927– ), Dganit Berest (1949– ), Menashe Kadishman (1932– ), Dov Heller (1937– ), Dani *Karavan (1930– ), and others, dealt with the question of borders, maps, environment and ecology. Alongside the trends that emphasized themes and contents, there was a more abstract trend, which engaged in examining minimalist form. This trend was amply reflected in the works of Yehiel Shemi, Michael *Gross (1920–2004), Nahum Tevet (1946– ), Beni *Efrat (1936– ), Rita Alima (1932– ), and Ori *Reisman (1924–1991). It should be recalled that there were artists, such as Naftali Bezem (1924– ) and Moshe Tamir (1924–2004), who remained figurative painters. A return to themes which were figurative and evocative of the Holocaust and to traditional Jewish subjects, first noticeable in the work of Ardon himself, is illustrated in various ways by Yossl *Bergner (1920– ), Shmuel Boneh (1930–1999), and Shraga Weil.

The 1980s and After

Critical post-modernist attitudes, which became quite dominant in Israeli art in the 1980s, express a growing tendency to give voice to the "Other" – artists raised in immigrant families, homosexuals and lesbians, or artists belonging to minority groups. The "Israeli experience," based on a collective, monolithic memory, had fallen apart. The paintings of Yair *Garbuz (1945– ), David Reeb (1952– ), Tsivi Geva (1951– ), and Avishai Eyal (1945– ), or the photographs of Micha Kirshner (1947– ), Michal Heyman (1954– ), Shuka Glotman (1953– ), and Adi Ness (1966– ) are examples of a new critical and deconstructive examination of the Israeli experience, of local history and its visual representations, and of the manipulations of the collective-political memory. Various aspects of the post-modern condition gained in prominence in the course of the last two decades. These include an erasure of the borders separating illusion from reality (art based on the virtual worlds created in the cinema, for instance, as reflected in the paintings of Anat Ben Shaul; the sense of apocalyptic threat expressed in the works of Dorit Yacoby and Moshe Gershuni). The threat of loss of the family home or the national one is given form by the prominence of the "house" motif in the sculptures of Micha Ulman, Philip Renzer (1956– ), Gideon Gechtman, and Buky Schwarz (1932– ). For more than a decade now, there has been a growing emphasis on the Holocaust as one of the major constituents in defining the Israeli identity, especially on the part of artists such as Yocheved Weinfeld, Simcha Shirman (1947– ), Haim Maor, and Uri Katzenshtein (1951– ), who are second-generation survivors.

The particular problems of identity and the tensions surrounding the broad concept of the "Israeli experience" largely account for the development in the Israel of recent years of an art that is fully sensitive and attentive to what is happening both in the public sphere and in the private domain, and that has gained a prominent position in the global art scene, as evinced by the interest shown in exhibitions of Israeli art in various venues abroad.

Resources. Traditional Art ; Modern Art ; Art in the USA ; Art and the Holocaust (Art, Jewish Virtual Library, 2008-2013).