History – Permanent Exhibition « The Jerusalem Artists House – בית האמנים בירושלים

History – Permanent Exhibition

From Bezalel to the Artists’ House

The building in which the Jerusalem Artists’ House resides today was built by the Ottomans in 1890. It was purchased by the Jewish National Fund several years later along with the adjacent building, for the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts, which opened its doors in 1908. The school occupied the adjoining building, while this building served the Bezalel National Museum.

In addition to Jewish art and local archaeological finds, the Bezalel National Museum featured a collection flora and fauna indigenous of the Land of Israel, used as models for the design of art objects. With the inauguration of Israel Museum in 1965, the collections of the Bezalel National Museum were relocated to the new venue, and the building became home for Jerusalem artists.

Bezalel founder, Boris Schatz (1867–1932) – a Lithuanian-born professor of sculpture – suggested naming the school after Bezalel Ben-Uri, “The first Hebrew master craftsman, who built us a temple in the desert.” The new academy offered instruction in painting, sculpture, and various other art forms, alongside folk crafts such as carpet making, metalworking, and woodcarving.

Schatz’s colleagues at Bezalel (including artist Ephraim Moses Lilien), sought to forge a visual language that would express the Jewish aspirations for national renewal in the Land of Israel. Suffused with romantic idealism, they appropriated sundry influences ranging European artistic trends and practical craft techniques; Islamic art and Jewish motifs; decorative elements and utopian imagery. Typography became a distinctive feature of the Bezalel style: the Hebrew font relied on a combination of Arabic script with cursive German writing style (Jugendstil).

Boris Schatz and Arnold Lachovsky at the front of Bezalel School, 1909, black & white photograph / framed by Ze’ev Raban (executed by Haviv Sasson), Approximately 1928, flatted copper mounted on wood 1928 (executed by Haviv Sasson)

Ze’ev Raban, Cain and Abel,c.1929, stone relief,carved

Ze’ev Raban, Double door, 1922, brass,repoussé and chased,mounted on wood Artists House, Jerusalem

Schatz’s art school was short-lived: financial difficulties and artistic disagreements led to repeated shutdown and reopening until its final closure in 1929. The cultural center migrated from Jerusalem to the youthful Tel Aviv that rejected the biblical-Zionist romanticism of the orientalist institution promoting classicism and stylistic eclecticism.

In 1935 the school was reopened by German emigrant modernists who named the institution The New Bezalel. In the 1960s it was once again revitalized under the name The Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design.

schatz house – eng from eliya shapiro on Vimeo.