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Ardon, Mordecai


ARDON, MORDECAI (1896–1992), Israeli painter. Ardon was born in Tuchow, Poland, as Max Bronstein, the eldest of the 12 children of Alexander Bronstein and Elisheva Buxbaum. His ḥasidic father sent his sons to study in a bet midrash. Influenced by his father's occupation as a watchmaker, Ardon uses images of the watch and of time to express his childhood memories (Ascension of the Cuckoo Clock, 1961, Private collection, Jerusalem).

From 1920 to 1925 Ardon studied at the Bauhaus under authoritative teachers such as Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Johannes Itten, and Lyonel Feininger. In Germany he was an enthusiastic Communist until 1933, when he escaped from the Nazis to Jerusalem. In 1936 he changed his name to the biblical Ardon. From 1935 he taught at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem and was the director of the institute from 1940 to 1952. In 1963 he was awarded the Israel Prize.

The style of his early paintings was expressionistic, the landscapes and the portraits surrounded by darkness demonstrating his admiration for the Renaissance painter El Greco (Self-Portrait, 1938–39, Israel Museum, Jerusalem). His symbolic poetic style was shaped in the 1950s, becoming more abstract in the 1960s. Despite the abstraction, his paintings deal with historical and mystical subjects deriving from the Jewish world (Train of Numbers, 1962, Mishkan le-Omanut, Ein Harod).

In his unique way Ardon combined the modernism of the Bauhaus with traditional art. Tradition was expressed by the artistic technique and the choice of materials. Ardon did not use industrial paint, using instead ground powder, which enabled him to produce very light hues (At the Gates of Jerusalem, 1967, Israel Museum, Jerusalem). He used the triptych as a format in his most impressive works, influenced by the religious traditional meaning of it.

Ardon's most monumental work is the stained-glass window Isaiah's Vision of Eternal Peace (1992–94) at the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem. The triptych refers to the vision described on Isaiah 2:2–4. The verse "Come let us go up to the mountain of Lord …" is the theme of the left panel. It appears in several languages on symbolic white roads. The central panel describes the image of Jerusalem with motifs taken from the Dead Sea Scrolls, the view of the Walls of Jerusalem as well as kabbalistic symbols. The right panel depicts the verse "and they shall beat their swords into plough-shares"; spades hover above guns and shells. Due to Ardon's insistence on traditional technique he made the stained glass at Atelier Simon, Rheims, France.


A. Schwartz, Mordechi Ardon: The Colors of Time (2003); M. Vishnym Mordecai Ardon (1974).

[Ronit Steinberg (2nd ed.)]

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