Pann, Abel

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PANN, ABEL (Abba Pfefferman ; 1883–1963), Israeli painter and draftsman. Pann was born in Kreslawka in the Vitebsk region of White Russia. Although his father Nahum was a rabbi and the head of a yeshivah, he did not object to his son becoming a painter, and even encouraged it. Until he was 20 years old, Pann received an Orthodox Jewish education. His first art teacher was Judah Pan of Vitebsk, who also taught Marc Chagall and Ossip Zadkine. In 1898 Pann began his art studies in the Academy of Fine Arts in Odessa, while at the same time being involved with Zionist activities. The most significant experience in Pann's life was his traveling to Kishinev after the pogroms (1903) as part of delegations that were dispatched to document the horrors.

From 1903 until 1913 he stayed in Paris, learning sketching and painting models at the Académie Julian. In this period Pann gained fame as a caricaturist. Pann arrived in Jerusalem as a part of a world journey. At the invitation of Boris Schatz, director of the Bezalel art academy, he stayed to teach and became deputy director for one year. During World War i Pann, who had returned to Paris to settle his affairs, was forced to remain there until the end of the war. In May 1920 Pann returned to teach at Bezalel; in 1924 he resigned to dedicate himself to biblical painting. Until his last day Pann continued to paint biblical scenes. In the Israeli art world his work was identified as part of the Jewish Art movement that was rejected by the modern Israeli view of the arts in the 1940s and later. In the Jewish world his art was a success. An exhibition of his art at the Israel Museum in 2003 promoted new awareness of the power of his art, especially his biblical paintings.

Pann's artistic style ranged from the humoristic to agony paintings, and then again to beauty and colorful visions. The suffering of the Jews in pogroms again became a part of his artistic creation in the series The Jug of Tears (1915–16, Israel Museum, Jerusalem). This series included 50 pastel drawings on cardboard. The series' sketches created the impression of journalistic documentation of the expelled Jews, desolated towns, rapes, and murders.

Pann's attitude toward the biblical scene was influenced by his journeys in Ereẓ Israel. Pann's confrontation with eastern figures, such as the Arabs and the Bedouins, reinforced biblical myth for him and provided a picture of realistic existence relevant to the biblical heroes. The audience for Pann's art, especially the Zionists among them, would identify with those feelings.


Y. Zalmona, The Art of Abel Pann: From Montparnasse to the Land of the Bible (2003); Jerusalem, Mayanot Gallery, Abel Pann 18831963 (1987).

[Ronit Steinberg (2nd ed.)]