Schatz, Boris

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SCHATZ, BORIS (1867–1932), painter and sculptor; founder of the *Bezalel School of Art in Jerusalem. Schatz was born in Varna, province of Kovno, Lithuania. The son of a melammed, he was sent to the yeshivah in Vilna but broke away from his family and religious studies and turned to art. In 1889 he went to Paris and worked under the sculptor *Antokolsky, and the painter Cormon. He was invited in 1895 to Bulgaria where he became court sculptor to Prince Ferdinand and was a founder of the Royal Academy of Art in Sofia. In 1900 he received the gold medal in the Paris Salon for his Head of Old Woman. After meeting Theodor Herzl in 1903, he became an enthusiastic Zionist. Schatz first proposed the idea of an art school at the 1905 Zionist Congress and when it was accepted went to Palestine to execute it. Three years later, he settled in Jerusalem, where he established the Bezalel School of Art (1906), to which he soon added a small museum. Schatz arranged exhibitions of the Bezalel crafts in Europe and the U.S. These were the first displays of the products of Ereẓ Israel exhibited abroad. During World War i, the school was closed down, and Schatz was held prisoner for ten months. He succeeded in obtaining funds in the U.S. for the reconstruction of his school and the museum. He died in Denver, Colorado, while on a successful fund-raising mission and was buried on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. The school was closed on his death, but reestablished the following year with the aid of a government grant. Schatz was both a realist and an idealist, a product of the dying romanticism and the reawakening of national consciousness in Eastern Europe. He took this spirit with him to Palestine, and adapted it to the needs of the country. The Bezalel School gave a young generation of artists and craftsmen the opportunity to study in the country and fostered a national style of arts and crafts, based on European techniques and Near-Eastern art forms. Schatz was a prolific artist, concentrating mainly on sculpture. His work is characterized by a naturalistic romanticism. From 1903, he worked almost exclusively on Jewish themes, representing religious practices, Jewish leaders, and biblical subject. His main works include: Mattathias, Blessing the Candles, Havdalah, The Scribe, Blowing the Shofar, Isaiah, At the Wailing Wall, Herzl, Bialik, Ben-Yehudah, and Isaac M. Wise. His son bezalel (1912–1978), an expressional abstract artist, illustrated Henry Miller's silk-screen printed Into the Night Life and specialized in ceramic murals and metal projects combined with architecture and craft designing (including one of the two gates at the Yad Vashem memorial, Jerusalem). Bezalel's wife, louise, was an artist known for her delicate abstract water colors. Boris' daughter zahara (1916– ) created abstract sculpture in plastics and wire. She received the Israel Prize (1954).


B. Schatz, 31 Oil paintings (1921); H. Gamzu, Painting and Sculpture in Israel (1951), 11–12. add bibliography: N. Shilo-Cohen (ed.), Bezalel shel Schatz – 1906–1929, Israel Museum, Jerusalem (1983); Y. Zalmona, Boris Schatz, Hakibbutz Hameuhad, Jerusalem (1985).

[Yona Fisher]