Moshe Rosenthalis (1922-2008) painted four monumental paintings (1978-1980) in which he depicted a visual narrative of the Jewish People history. The series titles are arranged in chronological order:
- The Exodus from Egypt
- From the Inquisition until the Immigration to Jewish Palestine
- From the Israeli War of Independence until the Settlement of the Negev Desert
The paintings were commissioned by businessperson Saul Eisenberg for the board room of the 'Asia House' in Tel Aviv (1978). This location enabled but a small number of executives to see Rosenthalis' works; they were never shown publically.
Beit Hatfutsot has taken upon itself to expose these monumental paintings for the first time to the Israeli public. Their size is enormous: six meters wide and about a meter and a half in hight. The exhibit aims to display Rosenthails' sketches, preliminary drawings and cartoons that served him in preparation for the monumental works next to the latter; through them, spectators would follow an Israeli artist's fascinating creative process (for which he dedicated two years of profound research) in search of extraordinary images. The series of paintings' subject matter, strangely as it may sound, is a rare phenomenon in the history of Israeli public art.
The Israeli art=field generally (and erroneously) assumes that visual narratives of Zionist dogmas automatically point to works commissioned and dictated by the political establishment. Consequently, such a notion assumes that the artist, responsible for the making of such works, succumbs to the dictation of one that commissioned the work.
In contrast, the contents of Rosenthalis' History of the Jewish People was entirely envisioned by him, with no intervention whatsoever by Eisenberg, who commissioned the works, or anyone else. The artist envisioned the beginning of Jewish history in the Ten Commandments, received by Moses on Mount Sinai and given to the Israelites; he saw its final stages in the Zionist settlement enterprises of the Negev desert and the city of Jerusalem after 1967. His profound knowledge of Jewish culture and tradition enabled him to come up with an extensive array of visual motifs and images.
The four paintings of The History of the Jewish People are, no doubt, the jewel in the crown of Rosenthalis' artistic oeuvre, both realistic and abstract; they reflect the artist's vigor and artistic expertise. Shy and hidden for decades, due to the Israeli art field's command for abstraction during the 1960s and 1970s, the series re=appearance today makes a fascinating artistic event. Rosenthalis' was ahead of the times in creating his visual summary of the Israeli experience. The public exposure of this series of paintings in this exhibition – later on to be part of the permanent display at Beit Hatfutsot – was long due for such a unique, monumental historical visual text.
The exhibition is displayed in collaboration with Rosenthalis House
On display until July 12, 2013
Curator: Alec Mishory
Exhibition Initiator: Avner Rosenthalis
Director of the Curatorial Department: Smadar Keren