Arikha, Avigdor

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ARIKHA, AVIGDOR (1929– ), Israeli painter. Arikha was born in Redauts, Bukovina, the second child of Haim-Karl and Perla Dlugacz. He discovered the power of his art in 1944, when his drawing ability helped get him released from a Romanian concentration camp, where he had been imprisoned from 1941. He escaped with his sister to Palestine, to kibbutz Ma'aleh ha-Ḥamishah, and joined the *Haganah. With support from Henrietta *Szold he studied at the Bezalel Academy of Art in Jerusalem under Mordecai *Ardon and Isidor *Aschheim. In 1949 Arikha began his studies in the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts in Paris, and from that time divided his life between Israel and Paris.

Arikha's preferred fields of art are drawing and book illustration. His illustrations for Samuel Beckett's Nouvelles et Textes pour Rien (1957) were the beginning of a long friendship. His main art style was figurative, but during the 1960s he tried abstraction. During the 1970s he improved his graphic and painting techniques and had many exhibitions in Europe and the United States. In 1981, on the recommendation of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, he painted a portrait of Queen Elizabeth. During this time he created public works of art, such as stained-glass windows for the Bnei Israel Synagogue, Woonsocket, Rhode Island (1961) as well as at the City Council Hall of the Jerusalem Municipality (1972). During the 1980s Arikha became a curator and made five short films on famous artists (1985). In 1992 the bbc, produced a film about his work.

Arikha's art deals with everyday life. There are interior scenes, portraits of family members, and still lifes of his intimate surroundings and views of his studio. One can recognize a clear influence of photography in his work, but the complex compositions and vivid colors emphasize his abstract painting ability. In general his painted figures and objects are placed individually in the frame of the work, yet the artistic forms are complex and contribute to the interest of the whole (Going Out, 1981, Israel Museum, Jerusalem).

In his Jerusalem landscapes Arikha dealt with the subject of light (Jerusalem Seen From the South, 1980, Tate Gallery, London). He depicts the light as though from a mystical source, accenting the view. At the same time the dazzling power of light constitutes a technical challenge for him, which constitutes the difference between his Jerusalem drawings and those created in Europe.

In honor of his 70th birthday a retrospective exhibition was presented in Israel's two major museums, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.


Israel Museum, Avigdor ArikhaSelected Paintings 1953–1997 (1998); Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Avigdor Arikha – Drawings (1998).

[Ronit Steinberg (2nd ed.)]