Israeli art dates back to the late 19 th century
Israeli art preludes the existence of Israel itself by more than fifty years, dating from the late 19 th century until today. This new art rejected the Western elements and embraced the Eastern elements that could be seen in the area. It began with a small group new to the country in a time where Israel was only sparsely populated. That group arrived in Palestine with very few possessions and even fewer prospects and understandably they didn't meet with immediate success; these young artists were, for the main part, themselves immigrants from Europe . This first group is characterized by a whole-hearted adoption of anything vaguely ‘oriental' in style and its depicted in a nostalgic, romanticized way that is, ironically, very Occidental in its mentality. This was, however, the beginning of an era that would eventually thrive and the Israeli art community would keep expanding steadily from then on.
The founding of the Bezalel School of Art in Jerusalem in 1906
One of most important developments that occurred in this art scene is the founding of the Bezalel School of Art and Design in 1906 by Boris Shatz in Jerusalem . Shatz wanted to create a center of artistic creation in Jerusalem that was finally free of the influences that had seeped into it during the many centuries in which Jews lived in the Diaspora. Here the students would create authentic, contemporary art that was rooted both in Judaism and the new political possibility of Israel . Within five years the school had over 400 students of all trades; woodwork and metalwork was taught there, weaving, carvings, painting and all forms of sculpture. In the 1920's, a student protest brought about a change in the prevalent realistic style of the school, depicting mainly Jewish symbolism, and people began painting landscapes of Palestine , each flooded with the bright white light that is an inherent consequence of the climate. Famous names of this early period are Nahum Gutman, Moshe Castel, Reuven Rubin, Avraham Melnikov , Israel Peldi, Tziona Tagger, Moshe Mokady, Abel Pann, Batya Lishansky, Yehiel Shemmi, Arye Lubin and Haim Gliksberg.
The French influence on Israeli art in the 1930's
In the 30's many artists began studying in Paris and for this entire decade and the two that followed it there are many French influences in Israeli art, such as in the works of Avigdor Stematsky , Yosef Zaritski and Frenkel. Two separate groups formed out of this new Israeli style; the “Eged” group of painters and the “Masad” group that were a French influenced Post-Expressionist style of painting. This second group declined the popular tendency to create politically charged works and were far more universal in their artistic ideology.
Israeli art after the holocaust
In the late 30's and 40's the art changed with the arrival of many European Jews fleeing the destruction of the holocaust and many famous names are among this group- Budko and Jakob Steinhardt, Rudolph Lehmann and Yohanan Simom and Isidor Asheim.
In 1947 a new artistic group emerged with the Independence of Israel called “Ofakim Hadashim”, which translates to ‘New Horizons'. This group included such artists as Zvi Mairovitch, who had a freer style of painting that was inherently abstract and very contradictory to the social climate of a bourgeoning country founded on the principles of radical social realism. In the city Tel Aviv was fast turning from a large town into a large city, more groups began to emerge and the art scene expanded further with the founding of “The Ten” group, called in Hebrew “Ha-asara”. This group celebrated a return to figurative painting and drew their inspiration from the landscapes around them.
The emergence of a modern, secular new art form in Israel
In the 50's and 60's the U.S replaced France as the main foreign influence on the indigenous artistic styles and the American Pop culture was used as the conceptual kernel that would being about the appearance of ‘ready-mades' and the use of simple materials such as writing paper instead of expensive canvas, pencils and not paints. This ‘poor' art was meant to reflect the reality of Israeli life more realistically. Today Bezalel School is called Bezalel Academy , and Israeli art is rarely as idealistic and ethnic as it was a century ago and Israeli artists are producing every kind of art form and style that exists in the art world.