About Jacob Steinhardt

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Jacob Steinhardt

Artist at a glance:
About the artist:
  Born: Zerkow, Posen, 1887
Studied: At the Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin. Also with Cornith, Struck, Matisse and Steinlen
Immigrated: 1933 Taught graphic art at the Bezlel Art School and later became its Director
Shows: Berlin and Paris, before 1933 Six one-man shows in Israeli museums, 1934-64 American museums, 1952-1963 San Paulo Biennale, 1955 Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1957 Venice Biennale, 1958
Awards: Prize of the International Institution for Liturgical Art, 1958 Gold Medal of Naples at International Exhibition "Arte Sacra", Trieste Contemporary Israel Art, Paris, National Museum of Modern Art, 1960.

Steinhardt's highly original art is rooted in the values and symbols of Judaism. Much of his work echoes a religious vision: he has managed to depict in a plastic manner such prophits as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah, and also Moses. He has also done with impressive simplicity scenes of Jewish life, its sorrows and joys. His style has varied from radical expressionism in his youth almost to conservatism in his later years. In all periods of his creative work, Steinhardt has been a master of portraiture; his likenesses are quintessential, sharp and acid.

Steinhardt's early paintings and etchings were tempestuous, angry and sad; they expressed deep anguish. In form they were angular, and abounded in broken lines. After coming to this country, however, he turned more and more to the woodcut as a major means of expression, both in black and white, and in color. His forms became less angular, and became rounded, serene, and almost classic.

Stienhardt's later paintings are mostly expressive, even emotional, landscapes. Ruins, mountains, and deserts are more conspicious in his work than valleys or the sea. His color scheme is primarily based on browns, yellows, and greys.

He has often depicted Jerusalem, emphasizing its Hassidic qualities, its burning and mystic aspects. Moreover, has has always loved strange visions and dreams, and terrifying or apocalyptical sights. This is particularly true of his present period. Steinhardt is a master; his work reaches truly creative heigths, often by means of noble understatement.

Steinhardt is most representative of the Central European group of the 1930s and 1940s. As an artist in Europe, he depicted the life of ghetto Jews in an intense, expressionistic style (e.g. "Sabbath Telk"). In Palestine before World War II, he broke with the established artists in that he was not afraid to show the old-style European Jew in the new land. Steinhardt also used Biblical themes and Israeli landscapes to express a prophetic message of hope that is squarely within the tradition of Judaism rejected by the earlier pioneers.