Lea Nikel

Lea Nikel, Abstract, Oil on canvas, 55 x 38 cm, 1960


Lea Nikel

Born in Zhitomir, Ukraine, Lea Nikel immigrated to Palestine in 1920. She grew up mainly in Tel Aviv and at the age of sixteen began studying painting with Haim Gliksberg, one of the founders of the Painters and Sculptors Association in Tel Aviv, who encouraged her to go on painting. During the 1940s she married and gave birth to her daughter Ziva. These were difficult years in her life, due to financial problems and tension in her marriage, and therefore she did not paint at all. It was only after she separated from her husband that she enrolled (in 1946) in The Studio, established by Yehezkel Streichman and Avigdor Stematsky, and studied there for two years. Streichman and Stematsky were among the founders of the New Horizons group, together with Yosef Zaritsky, who was its leading figure. The members of the group were oriented towards a universal modern art and especially towards the “Lyrical Abstract,” expressing Israeli painterly values such as the local light and color. The Studio was founded in 1945 and was active until the outbreak of the War of Independence in 1948. Many of its students later became some of the best of Israel’s artists. Since most of the teachers and those who critiqued the students’ works were members of New Horizons, the group’s ideas greatly influenced the development of Israeli art. Nikel knew the members of New Horizons well and studied with some of them at The Studio. She was also well acquainted with the painters who early in 1951 established The Group of Ten. Nonetheless, Nikel never associated herself with either of these groups, but developed a painting style of her own. In an interview she explained that in contrast to the members of New Horizons, who always painted nature, she absorbed impressions and experiences from nature but processed them into a painterly language of her own.

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