Sometimes there are traffic jams in our lives, and so I am playing catch-up with WASM blog postings. A cancellation for November 10th lecture had a very happy outcome when Annette Wolfstein-Joseph, on short notice, managed to get Montreal painter Rita Briansky to deliver a talk on Jewish art.
In one short hour, Rita covered the history of Jewish art from Biblical times up to the present time. Early Jewish culture was dominated by religious tradition, with its prohibition in the visual arts of what would qualify as graven images. In the ghettos of Europe it was even illegal for Jews to create art, and Jewish artists were relatively rare until they lived in assimilated European communities beginning in the late 18th century. And yet, Jewish artworks are rich and varied; creative expressions of Jewish life are found in mosaics, murals, manuscripts, illustrated Haggadahs, micrography, papercuts, graphic arts and paintings. Contemporary Jewish art is vital, and perhaps, the most prolific in all of Jewish history.
Annette Wolfstein-Joseph presenting speaker, Rita Briansky
Jewish artists of the Modernist period incorporated current visual language (cubism) into traditional subjects
During the early 20th century Jews figured particularly prominently in the Montparnasse movement, including Marc Chagall.
and Amedeo Modigliani
Felix Nussbaum’s famous Self Portrait with Jewish Identity Card (1943). He perished in the Holocaust.
Ben Shahn, a painter of the Diaspora, was known for his involvement in
social causes. Below is his painting Sacco and Vanzetti.
Ben Shahn, synagogue
R.B. Kitaj, If Not
R.B. KItaj, Jewish Rider
Larry Rivers, Portrait of Primo Levi
Post-war American artist Barnett Newman, Black Fire
Rita tied Newman’s abstraction to medieval illuminations like the Sarajevo Bible.
Mark Rothko, another of the great post-war abstractionists.
Jewish art comes full circle, one could say
Rita presented slides of many of the renowned Montreal painters of her generation.
Below, a scene by Jack Beder
Louis Muhlstock, rue Ste. Famille
Sam Borenstein, Winter Scene
Sam Borenstein, Summer
Rita Briansky, from her Kaddish series
Rita Briansky, Prayer Shawl, from her Kaddish series
Rita Briansky and Annette Wolfstein-Joseph after the lecture