Nachum Gutman, Teleneshty, Bessarabia, 1898 – Tel Aviv, Israel 1980-
A prolific man of many talents, Nachum Gutman was a painter, draftsman, designer, ceramicist, sculptor and mosaic artist. Gutman’s playful, loose, colorful style has been very influential. His work is figurative and covers subjects from the settlement of the land, war, biblical characters and children’s book illustrations. His vibrant mosaics can be found in many places in Tel Aviv.
Nachum Gutman moved from Russia to Israel with his family when he was seven . He lived and studied in Tel Aviv until he was 15, then moved to Jerusalem to study at the Bezalel School of Art and Design.
He was amongst numerous other students who began to rebel against the old school manner of instruction. The result of his rebellious manner was the development of a unique style that combined his personal experience of building a new life in Israel, which contrasted with his adoption of the modernist trends coinciding with then European arts. It has been noted that such artists as Renoir, Picasso, Henri Rousseau, and Raoul Dufy often inspired his works.
His sense of style was often portrayed in his exotic images of the Arab community and the Arab people, in which he depicted farm girls washing naked in the orange groves, depictions of shepherds and shepherdesses, and a series done displaying Jaffa’s brothels, capturing the instinctual and sensuous atmosphere of the Middle East. However, his later works were said to have taken on a lighter and more buoyant feel, then some of his earlier paintings.
After WWI, Gutman continued his studies in Vienna, Paris and Berlin where he began to illustrate books for famous Israeli writers. On returning to Israel in 1926, Gutman became a pioneer of the “Eretz-Israeli Style” group working to develop a distinctive Israeli style that was free from European influence.
In 1926, he had the fortunate opportunity to participate in the famous Tower of David Exhibition. In addition, over time, he became known as prolific children’s book author, and illustrator. His works were marked by pictorial narratives that portrayed their sentiments through the usage of an array of vibrant and poignantly chosen illustrations. His talent and hard work earned him the 1978 Israeli Prize for Children’s Literature. His works earned him the title “the artist of early Tel Aviv” seeing as he had a knack for portraying the bohemian and realistic vision of the city and its people. His illustrative writings often drew inspiration from ancient Asian motifs, such as Assyrian reliefs and Egyptian wall paintings.
Till this day some of his mosaic works are displayed in Bialik Square in Tel Aviv, which were installed in 1970, and tell the story of Tel Aviv, and Jaffa history and livelihood. In addition, after his death there was the creation of the Nachum Gutman Museum, which is located in what is considered Tel Aviv’s first Jewish neighborhood, Neve Tzedek.