Nahum Gutman

 

1898 – 1980

 

Painter and author Nahum Gutman was born in Bessarabia, at the time when it was still part of the Russian Empire. His family immigrated to Palestine when he was 7, and Gutman was the first artist raised in Tel-Aviv, when it was little more than a suburb of Jaffa. At the age of 15 he began to study at the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem but in 1916 the Academy closed due to World War I and Gutman, along with his fellow students, went to work at the wineries and orange orchards in the province settlements of Petach-Tikvah, Rehovot and Rishon Lezion.
The years between 1917 and 1920 were stormy. The Turks, who ruled the country, deported the Jewish residents of Tel Aviv and when the war was over the English took over, and Gutman volunteered to the “Hebrew Legion” and served in a prisoners’ camp in Egypt.
In 1920 Gutman embarked on a six years journey to Europe and studied painting, engraving and drawing in Vienna, Paris and Berlin. Upon his return to Israel, in 1926, he joined, and soon became a significant member in a group of artists who focused on landscapes and created a very distinct local style.
In the early 1930s Gutman began to illustrate the children’s supplement of the worker’s newspaper “Davar”. The supplement later became a weekly magazine for children and Gutman served as its house illustrator and member of the editorial staff for the next 35 years. In addition to his illustrating and painting, Gutman also created stage design and costumes, designed important mosaics which depict in bright colours the story of Tel Aviv and wrote many books, mostly for children but not only.
Gutman’s work documents the cultural and spiritual life of the newly established and fast growing city of Tel-Aviv, progressively building up the image of the new Israeli – the ‘Sabra’. His fascination with the exoticism of the Arab fellaheen and their womenfolk, and their strong attachment to the soil, comes across in his paintings. Gutman often depicted the landscape, and happenings within it, as an ideal harmony, a utopian mode of expression, tranquility, beauty and reversion to a simple, natural existence with a sense of Post-Cubist realism blended with Eastern magic.
Nahum Gutman received many awards, to include but some: the Dizengoff Award for Art (1956), the Hans Christian Andersen Honorary award for children's literature (1962) and the Israel Award for his contribution to children's literature (1978).
He passed away in Tel Aviv at the age of 82.

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