Nahum Gutman - Many Seas

Curators: Batya Be’er and Orit Grossman

The exhibition, featuring sea paintings by Nahum Gutman (1898-1980), provides a glance into a significant chapter of the artist’s oeuvre. The large number of works dealing with the sea indicates the importance that this theme had for the artist; going beyond mere interest, it is certainly rooted in his autobiography. Gutman’s first encounter with the sea was at the age of seven, when he sailed with his parents from the Port of Odessa to Eretz-Israel. This wondrous journey included a stopover in the Turkish port of Istanbul, which opened for him the magical world of the East before he finally landed at Jaffa Port. Nahum Gutman wrote about these experiences years later in his book, Between Sands and Blue Skies (1964).
In the 1920s, Nahum Gutman’s works were devoted to depicting the country’s vistas and pastoral scenes of people tilling the land. It was not until the 1930s that he returned to creating several etchings of Jaffa Port. During the 1940s, at the height of World War II, Gutman produced numerous paintings, mainly in watercolor, portraying the Tel-Aviv seashore. These are monochrome works that were painted in a somber, wintry atmosphere, expressing the personal and national state of mind at the time. At the end of the 1940s, Gutman discovered the magic of the Port of Haifa and painted it often.
From the 1950s until the 1970s, the port and sea motif became a key element in his work. The oil on canvas paintings depict the ports of Haifa and Jaffa – symbolizing the gates of the nation warmly welcoming and receiving those coming from afar – and reflect an overall buzzing, festive atmosphere. For the first time, we notice in these works the full-blown intensity of the sea and port, symbolizing for Gutman what he put so well in words: “I try to convey the sense of awe and the deep impression which has remained with me since those days when I arrived in Jaffa and the boats were adorned with such beautiful masts, that they looked as though they were bearing gifts."
The sea, the port, and the shore of Eretz-Israel described in these works were a source of passion and inspiration that accompanied Nahum Gutman throughout his life.
The exhibition "Nahum Gutman – Many Seas" at the Hecht Museum at the University of Haifa displays 28 of his works, mostly oil on canvas. The exhibition was produced in collaboration with the Nahum Gutman Museum, Tel Aviv.