The School of Paris in the Artists’ Colony
Of Safad, 1950s and 1960s

Exhibition Curator: Dr. Sorin Heller

Opening: 19th October 2013

This exhibition, which examines the affinity with the School of Paris of the Artists’ Colony of Safad, is intended to call attention to this rich and varied artistic enterprise that received, in its time, recognition both in the Israeli art world and among wider audiences. It presents a range of works by pivotal creators working there in the 1950s and 1960s. Their works do not merely indicate the artists’ affinity with the School of Paris, they also tell a story of the art history of this country – about the Artists’ Colony of Safad. Safad has long been a source of inspiration, a place where not a few Israeli and pre-Israel artists have worked. Due to their considerable number, it has not been possible to display all of them in the exhibition. Among them there were those who considered themselves residents of Safad, living in the city year round, whereas others preferred to return to the coastal plain when autumn arrived.

Safad attracted artists because of its romantic and “picturesque” views and architecture, as well as the mysticism imbuing the courtyards of the Hasidim (religious devotees) and the “apocryphal” light. These elements were translated into iconographic motifs by artists, however, one cannot refer to a “Safad School”. It is also difficult to compare the artistic events in Safad with those of Tel Aviv, particularly in the 20th century, which arose from an ideological-pioneering-Zionist motivation to become an incentive and originator of local art. Nevertheless, the artists of Safad recognized the area’s artistic potential, including the Jewish mysticism of the Hasidim.

To some extent, it is possible to compare the artistic activity in Safad with that of the Barbizon group at the outskirts of Fontainebleau with its beautiful scenery that attracted naturalist and impressionist artists in the second half of the 19th century. In Safad, the artists were inspired by their surroundings, by the ambience and atmosphere of the town.

Art critics made justifiable attempts to find a connecting link between many of the artists, based on their affinity with French art in the first half of the 20th century. The connection between the artists of the Safad Colony and the School of Paris lasted for more than three decades, from the 1920s until the 1950s. The exhibition relates to the Safad artists’ (e.g. Yitzhak Frenkel Frenel) affinity with the Jewish artists of the School of Paris, such as Soutine, Modigliani, Chagall, to name its outstanding members; at the same time, the exhibition considers the influence of other streams such as Cubism, which influenced, for example, Sionah Tagger and Moshe Ziffer; or surrealism and l’art informel at the end of the 1940s on Hannah Levi’s, Shimshon Holzman’s and Lea Nikel's abstractions of landscape.

The end of the 1960s marked the end of the golden age of the Artists’ Colony of Safad. The city is integral to the narrative of art in Israel in the 1950s-1960s, the two decades under review in the exhibition.

Sionah Tagger, Ofra, 1963, oil on canvas, 46x38
Collection of Ofra Guri-Rimon, Haifa
Eugenia Belkine, Boats in the Kinneret, oil on canvas, 99x33
Collection of Ha'aguda Lema'an Hachayal (AWIS)
Yitzhak Frenel (Frenkel), Synagogue in Safad, oil on canvas
Collection of Ya‘acov Hadad, Castel House, Safad