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Tagger, Sionah


TAGGER, SIONAH (1900–1988), first Israeli-born woman artist. She was born in Jaffa, daughter of Shmuel and Sultana Tagger. The family had immigrated to Ereẓ Israel from Bulgaria in 1880, and her parents were among the founders of Aḥuzat Bayit. After her attendance at evening classes at Constant's Studio in Tel Aviv, Tagger turned to study in the Bezalel School of Art and Design in Jerusalem (1921). Two years later she traveled to Paris, studied at the Academie L'hote, and participated in the exhibition of the Salon des Independents. When Tagger returned to Israel, she took part in the main exhibitions of the young modern artists, such as the Tower of David exhibition in Jerusalem as well as three of the Ohel exhibitions in Tel Aviv. Over the years Tagger continued to exhibit her paintings in Israel as well as outside of the country. From 1940 to 1942 she volunteered to serve in the British ats, and later joined the Haganah.

In 1948 at the Venice Biennale Tagger represented Israel. In 1952 she settled in the Artists Colony in Safed.

Tagger's art style was created of dialectical tendencies – on one hand, a quest for the universal, turning to the European Modern Art, and on the other, a return to her own roots and to the local. Tagger remained a figurative painter; even in her most abstract phases she remained loyal to practicality.

Tagger's best-known genre was portrait painting. The portraits she painted in the 1920s were created from many sketches. Their artistic style was a combination of Cubistic and Naïve art. A three-dimensional attention to volume, with powerful light-dark contrasts and well-defined stains of color, together magnified the emotional impact of the work (Portrait of a Boy in White, 1926, Israel Museum, Jerusalem).

A similar artistic style was a component of her landscape paintings. Tagger liked to draw the view of Tel Aviv and until the 1960s she chose to rent penthouses in Tel Aviv, in order to watch the city's vista, seashore as well as skyline. The exaggeration of the colors, the perspectives as well as the compositions of those paintings expressed the extreme feelings that rose from her gazing. The train movement and tempo in one of her paintings reminds one of the Futuristic's excitement regarding this vehicle (The Train Passing through Neve Tzedek, 1928, Collection of Joseph Hackmey, Tel Aviv).

During the 1960s Tagger painted on the matte side of shining transparent Plexiglas sheets. The products of that special technique looked like paintings on glass. Tagger was drawn to this technique owing to her perception of traditional ethnic and folk art. She used bright Oriental colors and a shiny Mediterranean light. The decorative style was dominant in those works and the subjects were usually traditional Jewish themes: the Tablets of the Covenant, Sukkot, Purim, and so on.


Tefen, The Open Museum, Sionah Tagger (19001988) Retrospective (1990); Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Sionah Tagger Retrospective (2004).

[Ronit Steinberg (2nd ed.)]

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