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Israeli Paintings

Jewish people have viewed Israel as the seat of their religious tradition for centuries. Israeli and Jewish art are naturally intertwined, if not one and the same, as the result. To avoid violating the Second Commandment, the most cautious practitioners of Judaism avoid images altogether. However, works of folk art have been used to invoke the Jewish faith in domestic and religious spaces for centuries.

In the 20th century, especially after Israel became a distinct state in 1947, Israeli people looked to Western precedents to develop their own distinct artistic expression. The Tel Aviv Museum has an extensive collection of Israeli modern and contemporary art.

The Jewish tradition emphasizes text and intellect. As the result, conceptual art of the 20th century resonated especially with Jewish and Israeli artists. Contemporary Israeli artists as well as Jewish artists around the world began in the 1980s to explore the Holocaust. Israeli art often explores Jewish identity, war, or references to the Israeli military.

Quick Facts

  • Austrian painter Gustav Klimt's "Portrait of Gertrud Loew," 1902, sold for $39 million with the permission of Loew's heirs at a Sotheby's London auction in June 2015. The painting had been taken by the Nazis during WWII, after Loew, of Jewish descent, had to flee Vienna in 1938
  • Contemporary artist Tal R, born in Tel Aviv and raised in Denmark, explores the juxtaposition between cultures in his work. His "Rock," 2013, sold for $18,750 at Phillips New York in 2014
  • Marc Chagall is a well-known Jewish artist. His "Les deux bouquets," 1926, sold for $2 million at Sotheby’s New York in May 2015

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