Huvy (Ahuva) Elisha, was born 1927 between World Wars in the Bucharim section of Jerusalem. While her mother worked as a nurse to support the family, Huvy was left to take care of herself. She might have been a lonely child, but she was never bored. Every morning she set off to wander the nearby undeveloped Judean hills, the slopes beyond Shmuel Ha Navi Street and in the area that’s known today as the Ramot neighborhood. Those childhood excursions kindled her joyous naturalist’s eye. First, she encountered what she still calls the ‘biggest show on earth“ that is, the sky full of wondrous cloud formations in every shape imaginable.
Then she fell in love with G-d’s precious gift of color on the olive trees, the wild poppies and gladiolas and even the occasional green snake. (Till this day Huvy frequently dreams she is walking on those very slopes, gazing at the hills in the distance, cherishing the wild poppies at her feet.) By the time she entered kindergarten, Huvy’s eye for shape and color were entirely cultivated. On the first day of school, when Huvy’s teacher drew a fish with colored chalk, Huvy watched with fascination. She knew immediately that art would be her life.
When Huvy was six years old, family circumstances tore them from their precious Jerusalem home. First, the family lived in Vienna, then Prague. Soon enough, political conditions for Jews forced them to move on and settle in London. Young Huvy’s spoken language was a mixture of German, Czech and Hebrew and until she acquired English her education would suffer. But nothing–no World Wars, no constant moving– affected her love of color, shape, and texture. She couldn’t live without scribbling, drawing and sculpting. Naturally, her early models were the things around her, including bread crumbs or burnt matches on a tablecloth.
Soon enough, the dangers of the London blitz forced the family to move on once more, this time from London to the seaside resort (often called the English Riviera) of Torquay, in Devonshire, south west England.
The exquisite cliffs, coves, beaches and gardens, fashionable background for English aristocracy, added to the mental landscape of the emerging artist. (To this day walking on the beaches–winter as well as summer–is a passion second only to her forays in fields of wild flowers.)
Once Huvy settled into routine and entered into her Devonshire school, the headmistress, herself an artist, recognized Huvy’s prodigious talent and encouraged Huvy’s naturalist’s eye. She hung Huvy’s landscapes and still life paintings in the hallways of the school, paintings which were still hanging 30 years later when Huvy returned to Devonshire for a visit. When Huvy was 14 years old, the headmistress wrote a recommendation for her to enter the prestigious St. Martin’s School of Art in London. Huvy enrolled in St Martin’s as a child prodigy, several years younger than all of her classmates.
She absorbed her lessons, as she says, “like a sponge,” often to the surprise of her mentors. She remembers how she could make a complete clay model in one art lesson and she recalls one beautiful clay figure of a of an elderly woman bending over with her hand behind her back and how the instructor, challenged by her quick mind and mercurial talent, came up beside her and squashed the project down in one hand.
These days, Huvy never gets tired of painting wedding scenes: Luscious garden ceremonies, blooming trees, shimmering chupas, jubilant flowers, the bride and groom melding their souls together. Sometimes the setting is her grandmother’s Jerusalem garden; sometimes a grandchild makes a cameo appearance among the exuberant wedding guests. After living and traveling and training in Europe, Huvy arrived at her first Israeli wedding in many years just in time for the chupa ceremony. There she was captivated by the absolute and unpretentious joy and she will never work that joy out of her system. Since Huvy started painting wedding scenes, many have tried to copy her unique ability to capture the joy of a Jewish wedding – just as many have tried to copy her unique ability to capture Poppies.
Technically speaking, Huvy is a European trained, classically educated impressionist and post impressionist artist working in pastel, watercolor, pen, and oil. In Israel, she’s been the subject of many a tour guide’s tour. Everyone wants to know how it is that a European trained classical artist has come to live and work out of Meah Shearim, the ultra-religious section of Jerusalem.
The truth is that Huvy has come full circle. She has come home.