web analytics
September 2, 2014 / 7 Elul, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (L) visits the JewishPress.com booth at The Event. And the Winners of the JewishPress.com Raffle Are…

Congratulations to all the winners of the JewishPress.com raffle at The Event



Home » Sections » Arts »

Ludwig Blum’s Israel


McBee-123011-FrontPg

Museum of Biblical Art 1865 Broadway @ 61st Street New York, NY 10023 Tues, Wed, Fri, Sunday – 10am – 6pm; Thursday – 10am – 8pm Suggested admission $7, Sunday Free 212-408-1500; www.mobia.org Until January 15, 2012

Ludwig Blum (1891 – 1974) was a deeply complex artist who walked the fine line between pure aesthetics and a radical artistic view of the Zionist enterprise. He clearly loved to paint, make beautiful images and provide aesthetic pleasure. As a committed Zionist and part of the Third Aliyah, he celebrated his newfound homeland with a visual passion, exploring all of Palestine’s unique riches. Much of his work offers well-known views of Israel’s Jewish and Christian tourist sites, expertly painted over a prolific 50-year career. And yet, he also repeatedly painted the most mundane and banal scenes of the unfolding Zionist development. Tel Aviv under construction, a Kibbutz girl feeding chickens, a kibbutz water tower, the Eilat airport and the Timna copper mines are but a few decidedly non-picturesque scenes that flowed from his skillful brush. We see both kinds of paintings in “Jerusalem and the Holy Land: The Paintings of Ludwig Blum,” imported from the Ben Uri Gallery in London and curated by Dr. Dalia Manor. In many ways this current exhibition at the Museum of Biblical Art is an examination of his bifurcated vision of the emerging Jewish state.

Jerusalem, Temple Mount (1928) oil on canvas by Ludwig Blum. Courtesy Museum of Biblical Art

Witness the wonderful Blum painting from 1928, Temple Mount. It is suffused with the kind of reflective light and Mediterranean sensibility found in the best of 19th century French painting, immediately bringing the early works of Corot to mind. It is a quickly painted gem, filled with agile brushstrokes and precise recording of the special Jerusalem light. It immediately convinces the viewer of its visual veracity without the burden of a surfeit of details. The tower on the left, the Mosque and the cluster of Cyprus trees on the right establish an ordered compositional structure in conjunction with the distant horizon behind them to allow the gradations of color and light below to delight the viewer’s sensibility. The artist has transported us to the Old City in the waning hours of a beautiful day. Blum became so famous for these lyrically factual renderings of this and other popular tourist views of Jerusalem that he was dubbed “Painter of Jerusalem” in his Czech hometown of Brno – Lisen.

Blum, born in Moravia, was deeply “rooted in the European classical tradition” from his private studies in Vienna in 1910 and his later training at the Prague Academy of Fine Arts until 1920. These were exactly the years of explosive development of Central European modernism, evidenced by Czech Cubism in painting and architecture. It was a time of dramatic change throughout European society. There was a world war raging and new artistic and cultural movements were overthrowing 19th century pieties. Freud, Marx and Herzl (among many others) vied for the attention of young creative minds. Ultimately for Blum, Herzl won out along with the artistic certainties of “realism” as Blum moved to Jerusalem in 1923.

Once he settled in he did his best to relate to the emerging artistic environment, then dominated by the Bezalel School and such Eretz Yisrael artists as Reuben Rubin and Abel Pann. By and large these artists were determined to fashion a unique Palestinian Jewish visual culture, deeply influenced by aspects of European modernism, including Art Nouveau and Symbolism. Unfortunately this was clearly not the artistic vision Blum had come to Palestine to pursue.

He quickly became a specialist in views of Jerusalem, panoramas, holy sites, portraits of “Oriental types” and Christian devotional sites. All of these themes were essentially painted as tourist paintings, souvenirs from the Holy Land. Since at this time tourists were few and far between, Blum frequently had to market his work abroad: Berlin, Amsterdam, London and especially in his native Czechoslovakia.

Much of these works are lovely, straightforward documents of very specific places. The catalogue calls Blum a “topographical artist” and while that is true, it is also incomplete. A close look at the works frequently betrays an agitated brushwork and considerable invention, at times an almost expressionistic painterly gesture. Blum’s work is clear-eyed and optimistic, always bright and colorful with an unerring emphasis on dramatic natural light. It is clear he painted because he loved the very act of painting and making images. It is also clear he painted because he had to make a living and support his family.

Kibbutz Kiryat Anavim (1932) oil on canvas by Ludwig Blum.Courtesy Museum of Biblical Art

In light of all of the above history, Blum’s documenting of many aspects of the Zionist pioneering efforts is all the more remarkable. Yes, it could be argued that these works were also “tourist” works easily saleable to Zionist supporters, albeit even rarer than his other customers. But I sense something fundamentally different in both their message and motivation. They are paintings of Blum’s conviction of the necessity of building a Jewish state, the fundamental belief of Zionism. Kibbutz Kiryat Anavim (1932) was the first kibbutz settled in the Judean Hills, relatively close to Jerusalem. The handful of buildings set at the base of a hill are framed by a lively brushwork of pine trees as three figures establish the foreground: a worker and two children. It is dashed off in the most unheroic manner, representing a most heroic determination to make Palestine a Jewish land.

Kibbutz Degania (1934) oil on canvas by Ludwig Blum. Courtesy Museum of Biblical Art

The same sentiment is expressed in Kibbutz Degania (1934), the very first of all kibbutz settlements, just south of the Kineret. Again the buildings seem secondary whereas the fact that it is landscaped and populated with quickly sketched people, here accompanied by a dog, seems to be the artist’s main statement. The wonderful verticals of the Cyprus and palm trees establish an elegant setting for Jewish possession of the land.

Of all the paintings I have dubbed “Zionist,” the relatively late 1957 Timna, Copper Minesis the most startling. The mere act of making art out of an industrial project such as this in the Negev desert contradicts almost all normal sensitivities of a highly proficient and traditional landscape artist. And yet it is clear he was driven to do the work out of his passionate belief in the constant building of his country, Israel. He combines a clear, honest depiction of an industrial site proudly set within awesome natural beauty.

Timna, Copper Mines (1957) oil on canvas by Ludwig Blum. Courtesy Museum of Biblical Art

It is perhaps Blum’s unrelenting artist’s eye and sense of poetry that drove him to some of his most extraordinary images. Jerusalem in the Snow (1927) captures the holy city in a way almost no other image has. The relatively exceptional nature of snow itself, blurring distinctions and the fact that Blum went outdoors to capture it combines to set the stage for a revealing image of Jerusalem. In Blum’s image the city seems to float, isolated and alone in an alien world, barely tethered to the rest of the country. That isolation and specialness sums up a great deal about the reality of Jerusalem, here captured in a singular landscape.

Jerusalem in Snow (1927) oil on canvas by Ludwig Blum. Courtesy Museum of Biblical Art

Ludwig Blum dedicated himself to the land of Israel with the best tools in his possession, his artist’s vision and the skill of his brush. He spent a 50-year career on one long love song to his Zionist vision. We are fortunate to be able to see it.

Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com.

About the Author: Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Ludwig Blum’s Israel”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Hamas's leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh (in blue shirt, center), benefitted politically - and in a dramatic fashion - from this summer's war.  Photo from Hamas victory rally, Aug. 27, 2014.
Gazan Deaths and Destruction Dramatically Drives Popularity for Hamas
Latest Sections Stories
LBJ-082914

What better proof do we need than the recent war with Hamas in Gaza, dubbed “Operation Protective Edge,” that transformed the pain and suffering of three families into a sense of unparalleled unity and outpouring of love of the entire nation of Israel?

Katzman-082914

So many families are mourning, and all along we mourned with them.

Astaire-082914

In addition to his great erudition, Rabi Akiva was known for his optimism.

Kupfer-082914-Chuppah

She told me that she was busy and that he could sit in his wet clothes for the rest of the day. It would teach him to be more careful.

What can we do to help him stop feeling so sad all the time?

Children with dyslexia or dysgraphia frequently have problems in social relationships.

Israel’s neighbors engaged in hostilities from the onset. The War of Independence was a hard-won battle. Aggression and enmity has followed for 66 years.

The contest will include student-created sculpture, computer graphic design, collage, videography, PowerPoint and painting.

David, an 8-year-old boy on the autism spectrum, recently attended a Friendship Circle event. As he entered he told his Dad, “I love coming to the FC programs ‘cause everyone loves each other.”

Goldsmith himself went on his own “voyage of discovery” to the places where his grandfather and uncle landed and were sent.

Frank proclaimed himself Zvi’s successor and the reincarnation of King David.

You’re probably wondering why the greatest advocate of fast and easy preps in the kitchen is talking about layer cakes, right?

Almost immediately the audience began singing and clapping and continued almost without stop throughout the rest of the concert.

As of late, vintage has definitely been in vogue in the Orthodox community.

More Articles from Richard McBee
Jerusalem to Jericho Road: photograph by Chanan Getraide
“Chanan Getraide Photographs”: 2004 exhibition at Hebrew Union College Museum

“We are living in a Golden Age of Jewish Art, but don’t know it.”

McBee-062014-Outside

He refuses to flinch from our painful history, perhaps finding a kind of solace in the consistency of irrational enmity directed against us.

“Vidduy: The Musical” breaks through the formidable barrier of repetitive confession to allow us to begin to understand what is at the heart of this fundamental religious act.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Silverstein’s work has long concerned itself with the intersection between the personal and Jewish Biblical narrative, significantly explored in this column in “Brighton Beach Bible” (July 27, 2009).

Not surprisingly the guardians of synagogue tradition is male dominated in both Moses Abraham, Cantor and Mohel and Synagogue Lamp Lighters.

Neither helpless victims nor able to escape the killer’s clutches, the leaders had to make impossible choices on a daily basis in a never-ending dance with the devil.

Bradford has opted to fully exploit the diverse possibilities of the physical surface by concentrating on the three-dimensional application of paint (impasto) and other material.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/arts/ludwig-blums-israel/2011/12/29/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: