“Art is as life and the human spirit – an everlasting struggle”
Letter to his brother Asher, 28.06.23
Menachem Shemi (1897-1951) belongs to the group of painters that worked in Eretz Israel (as pre-State Israel was called) during the first half of the 20th century, those who pioneered the course and laid the foundations of the Israeli art of painting as we know it today.
Young Shemi emigrated from Russia to Jerusalem in 1913 and joined the Bezalel School of Art. His purpose was to find for himself a new, Eretz Israeli artistic path in an Eastern spirit that would suit his aspirations. He intended to combine the artistic traditions he had imbued in his home and at the Odessa Academy of Arts with the characteristics of the best in international culture as then expressed particularly in French painting at its centre in Paris. His entire life – regrettably all too short – was dedicated to a brave, persistent, ceaseless struggle with the challenge of defining for himself a unique personal art style. He wanted it to stand the test of supreme qualities common to Western countries, while expressing Eretz Israelism at its best, with its content, views, atmosphere and colours, all forged in the furnace within the artist’s own soul.
During his three decades of activity, Shemi continuously tested himself by experiencing contemporary art styles but always with close self-examination and never by way of self-disparagement and resignation. His life oeuvre testifies to the very personal process he had experienced.
The exhibition is meant to portray this process from its early beginning up to its peak during Shemi’s very last years, when he lived and worked in Safed. During that time, while grappling with the profound pain of his son’s death in battle during the War of Independence, Shemi experienced an incomparable outburst of original creation involving a wondrous synthesis of form, colour and abundant love for his paintings’ subject matter.
Menachem Shemi in Ein Harod
11 Sep - 12 Dec, 2010