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Gutman, Nahum


GUTMAN, NAHUM (1898–1980), Israeli painter and sculptor. Gutman was born in Telenshty, Bessarabia. In 1905 the Gutman family immigrated to Ereẓ Israel, settling in Aḥuzat Bayit (on the site of modern Tel Aviv). He began his art studies in 1913 at the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts in Jerusalem and in 1920 continued in Vienna at the School of Arts and Crafts. In 1926–28 Gutman participated in two exhibitions that were of great significance in Israeli art history: the Tower of David exhibition, which expressed the Bezalel spirit, and the Modern Artists' Exhibition at the Ohel Theater in Tel Aviv, which proclaimed a new direction in art.

Gutman was one of Israel's best-known artists and a well-known writer. In 1939 he began to publish his own books, which he wrote as well as illustrated. He was chosen to represent Israel in the Venice Biennial and participated in many exhibitions all over the world. Gutman had a great influence on Israeli children through his books and the articles he published in the children's newspaper Davar Li-Yeladim. In 1962 one of his books, Path of Orange Peels, was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Literary Prize on behalf of unesco. The link between his art and the child's world can be seen in his art style, which integrates a Naive method of drawing with colorful compositions. Gutman made a great impression on the city of Tel Aviv. Many of the monumental buildings of the city are decorated with his mosaic walls (Homage to Tel Aviv, Shalom Tower, Tel Aviv).

Gutman was among those artists who painted the Arab figures that peopled their surroundings in the 1920s. In some of his paintings he depicted scenes of daily life in a rural landscape or in Jaffa's orchards, painting Arabs in their daily occupations, as in The Goatherd (1926, Israel Museum, Jerusalem) or The Bearer of Sheaves (1927, Israel Museum, Jerusalem). In these paintings the Arab workers were greatly magnified: their bodies extended over the entire canvas, their postures recalled old Egyptian figures, their clothes were painted in graceful colors, and they came off looking very admirable. It is clear that Gutman saw them as models for the new pioneer immigrants who were novice farmers in their old-new land. After the riots of 1929, his manner of depiction changed and the drawings became more realistic.

Gutman's small clay sculptures look as if they stepped out of his paintings. Although in sculpture it is difficult to capture the look of a moment or create a living expression, Gutman succeeded in this, producing humoristic figures (Neighbor's Quarrel, 1970, Gutman Museum, Tel Aviv).


Gutman Museum, Nahum Gutman 18981980 (2003); idem, Gutman Visits the Realms of Evil (2000).

[Ronit Steinberg (2nd ed.)]

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