Aroch, Arie

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AROCH, ARIE (1908–1974), Israeli painter and diplomat. Aroch was born as Lyoba Niselevitch in Kharkov, Ukraine, the third child of Rivka Shulamit and Chaim. His father was a Zionist activist. In 1924 Aroch immigrated with his family to Ereẓ Israel, settling in Tel Aviv. He studied art at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem and at the Colarossi Academy in Paris.

During the 1930s and 1940s Aroch had many one-man exhibitions and also participated in group exhibitions of young artists. His friendship with Avraham Halfi and other theater people led him to the design of stage sets. In 1942 he was inducted into the British Army. In the 1950s and the 1960s Aroch served in diplomatic posts in Argentina, Moscow, Brazil, and Stockholm (ambassador in the last two). In 1972 he was awarded the Israel Prize for art.

During the 1950s Aroch's artistic style changed from the figurative to the expressionistic, moving toward abstraction. In these years he developed his unique way of referring to Jewish motifs. He looked for a way to give them in modernist forms. He would thus quote from Jewish icons (for example from The Sarajevo Haggadah) but design them differently using a personal modernist method to create a completely new image out of the old icon (Jewish Motif, 1961, Tel Aviv Museum of Art).

His best-known art work is Agrippas Street (1964, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem). He began the creation of this work in Stockholm, where he painted abstractly his memories of and yearning for both his homes: the one in the Ukraine where he had spent his childhood and his home in Israel. To this end Aroch attached a "found object," which was an enamel street sign. The object integrates memories from his father's shoemaking workshop and from his student life in Jerusalem. The name of the street derives from the name of Jerusalem's market street and the name of the last Jewish governor appointed for Jerusalem in the years 41–44 c.e., referring to a period when Ereẓ Israel country was governed by scions of the Hasmonean dynasty. The linkage in this work between present and past, Israel and the Diaspora, as well as the dialogue between different modernist styles contributed to the fame of this work.

In general Aroch's art works are characterized by significant repetitive motifs, such as bus in the mountain, two cubes, angels, and boats, all of them with ambiguous and complex meanings.


O. Mordechai (ed.), Arie Aroch (2003).

[Ronit Steinberg (2nd ed.)]