Curator: Yigal Zalmona, Chief Curator-at-Large
Abel Pann's biblical scenes reflect a variety
of nineteenth-century European. Orientalist attitudes, according
to which the East was a violent, barbaric place, but it was
also idyllic, romantic, and drenched with sexuality. His representation
of the Eastern woman as a sexual object or an uninhibited
temptress is also typical of other Bezalel artists. Thus Ze'ev
Raban illustrated the Song of Songs with a naked woman in
the embrace of a man wearing a Bedouin robe.
Pann followed in the footsteps of a large
group of nineteenth-century European artists who took a documentary
approach in depicting scenes from the Hebrew Bible and the
New Testament: they painted as if the events had taken place
in the Near East as it was in their own time. And since scientific
method was seen as the only way to explain the world, it was
also important for the artists of the period to validate even
religious scenes, such as the events related in the Bible,
by depicting them with as much historical accuracy as possible.
That said, there can be little doubt that a very natural attraction
to and curiosity about the exotic, the new, and the unfamiliar
contributed to the success of this realistic approach in depicting
Abel Pann (originally named Abba Pfeffermann)
was born in 1883 in the town of Kreslawka in the Vitebsk region
of White Russia. His father, Nahum, was a rabbi and the head
of a yeshivah, a religious academy, and Pann received a Jewish
elementary school education in a heder until he was twelve.
He studied the fundamentals of drawing for three months with
the painter Yehuda Pen of Vitebsk, who also taught Marc Chagall
and Ossip Zadkine. At the age of twelve he began traveling
between cities in Russia and Poland, earning a living mainly
as an apprentice in sign workshops. Aided by a wealthy matchstick
manufacturer, in 1898 he went south to Odessa, where he was
accepted by the Academy of Fine Arts.
The Kishinev pogroms, a turning point for
the Zionist movement in Eastern Europe, broke out in the spring
of 1903. Delegations were dispatched to appraise the destruction
and loss of life. Pann also traveled to Kishinev and produced
a number of documentary sketches depicting the scenes of devastation
he observed there. One of these sketches was later transformed
into a large oil painting.
The Day after the Pogrom (Yard in Ruins and Bereaved Family),
which Pann submitted for his final examinations at the Academy.
The Kishinev drawings were the first installment in an ongoing
project of artistic documentation of the fate of the Jews
to which Pann (as he himself writes) dedicated his life.
Works from the collections
of Itiel Pann or Yael Gahnassia are by courtesy of Itiel Pann
and Yael Gahnassia, Mayanot Gallery, Jerusalem.
Curator: Tami Manor Friedman
Shmuel Schlesinger, 1901-1986
Girl with a Flower,
Oil on canvas
The Open Museum, Industrial Park, Tefen
Early Israeli art, from the Bezalel period
at the beginning of the 20th century up to the 1950s, is replete
with flowers and vegetation. Floral motifs appear in paintings
of landscapes and gardens, botanical sketches, decorative
designs, still lifes, and portraits. While inspired by Western
artistic traditions, these works drew on the new Zionist culture
and the ideals of tilling the land, fulfilling the vision
of national regeneration, and making the desert bloom. The
development of botanical research and the study of the wealth
of flora and fauna in the old-new homeland were also associated
with these ideals.
Today too, Israeli artists engage with floral
motifs, conducting a dialogue with their precursors. Some
of them express a sense of longing for the innocent world
of their childhood - for the lessons on natural history, camping
trips, dried-flower albums, and naive drawings. Others cast
a critical eye on the subject, depicting a reality rife with
contradictions: between florescence and war, beauty and destruction,
nature and culture.
The exhibition addresses these subjects and
glances beyond their expression in the fine arts to poetry
and children's literature, scientific research, public sector
graphic design, and popular art.
Curator: Nissan Perez, Horace and Grace Goldsmith
Curator of Photography
The first Jewish camera practitioners resident
in the Land of Israel were all members of the early waves
of immigration that originated for the most part in Eastern
Europe at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth
century. Consequently, the first photographs taken in Palestine
documented the Jewish presence in the country tightly connected
to the people's biblical and historical roots in their ancestral
homeland, and to their age-old yearning to return to the Land
of Israel. These early photographers were later joined by
colleagues from Germany, whose arrival coincided with the
rapid growth of the Yishuv, the modern Zionist settlement
in Palestine prior to 1948.
At this very moment in the history of the
emerging state, photography became the tool for the creation
and perpetuation of a myth and a national history in the making
through visual representations of the reality. By its very
nature, photography has the power to document, but it was
also instrumental in the creation of a collective consciousness
and memory not devoid of biases which, at that moment in time,
were indispensable. It is to these photographers' credit that
they combined truth and fiction with great skill, conveying
ideas and sentiments that would serve the national cause.
While these photographs mostly charted the
renewal of the Jewish presence in the ancestral land and the
achievements of the settlers, they also paid special attention
to portraying the pioneers in relation to the land, the environment,
and the new settlements, which were a source of great pride.
This was the beginning of the heroic era in Israeli history,
a very demanding yet romantic period when individuals or small
groups of people were responsible for endeavors of national
consequence. The photographs in this exhibition are only a
few visual documents chronicling the pioneers who laid the
foundations of a comprehensive social and economic infrastructure,
developed agriculture, established unique communal forms of
rural settlement, and provided the labor force to build roads
In addition, these photographs mark the
dramatic transition from objective tourist photography to
subjectively involved photography in the Holy Land, the moment
when the mental attitude, focus of attention, and the intention
and motivation of the photographers underwent a drastic change.
When considered in the right local, social, and historical
contexts, these images were and still remain extremely powerful
and evocative, often not even requiring a caption.
Most of the photographs in
the exhibition are drawn from the collection of the Israel
Museum. We are grateful to Alain and Evelyn Roth, Herzliya,
for their support and for the loan of several important photographs
from their collection.