Reuven Rubin is the eighth of 13 children born to a Romanian Jewish Hasidic family. Jewish Virtual Library states, “Although born in Rumania and trained in art in Paris and Rumania, Reuven Rubin in many ways is a distinctly and distinctively Israeli artist. (JVL)
Although he spends his life traveling between Romania, Paris, New York, and Israel, Engel Gallery explains Rubin’s importance to Israel:
“Reuven Rubin is a central figure in the canon of Israeli art, who [succeeds] in defining modern Eretz Israel’s visual essence, famed both in Israel and abroad. When he first set foot in Eretz Israel, Rubin’s dream [is] to create art which will link between European and Asian art, ancient Jewish and biblical folklore.” (Engel Gallery)
Reuven Rubin’s main artistic influences include the modernist styles of Paul Gauguin and Henri Rousseau, whose style combined with Eastern nuances. Likewise, Byzantine art in Rubin’s native Romania is also echoed in his emerging style. In accordance with his weaving of eastern and western influences, Rubin signs his works with his first name in Hebrew and his surname in Roman letters. (wikipedia)
Sotheby’s describes Rubin’s evolution in style:
“Rubin’s naive, Primitivist style of the 1920s, combines influences from Byzantine art and the modernist styles of Paul Gauguin and Henri Rousseau…Having studied the Old Masters in the Academy in Bucharest, Rubin [draws] freely on the poses of angels and Madonnas found in Byzantine art in several of his early portraits.”
New ‘Eretz-Yisrael’ Style of Art
In 1923, Rubin immigrates to the Land of Israel where he becomes one of the founders of the new Eretz-Yisrael style. Many of Reuven Rubin’s paintings are sun-bathed depictions of Jerusalem and the Galilee. Recurring themes in his work include the biblical landscape, folklore, and people – Yemenite, Hasidic Jews, and Arabs. Carmela Rubin (1998) states, “It seems that what Gauguin was looking for in Tahiti, Rubin found in Palestine.”
Carmela Rubin continues,
In the process of acclimating to the local environment, he [watches] his Arab neighbours with eager fascination … because he [is] attracted to their simple ways and their organic, earthy lifestyle. Only years later did his lyrical, more romantic style evolve and his figures [become] more archaic and less rooted in reality.” (Carmela Rubin, Home Visit, 1998) via Sotheby’s
‘Arab Woman With Potted Plant’ (1923)
In this painting the woman’s gently tilted head is draped in a black head covering, bringing to mind Mary in her blue mantle. The sun-drenched hill behind her is like a halo that brings contrast to highlight her silhouette. Placed outdoors, holding a potted plant, the woman is in harmony with the land.
Sotheby’s notes that the connection between the land and the people “is a theme the artist [returns] to throughout his career, but especially in these early years, when [Rubin] and his contemporaries [paint] the Arab residents as a romantic symbol for the ideal life in harmony with nature.” Sotheby’s further explain the symbolism:
The potted plant can hold an additional connotation, an emblem for hope – hope in the growth of the pioneering society in Eretz Israel, the hope of this young immigrant artist, with a budding life in the Land of Israel. The small plant, itself a new life, symbolizes a new beginning. Sotheby’s
Reuven Rubin wants “to create art which will link between European and Asian art, ancient Jewish and biblical folklore.”(Engel Gallery). Most importantly, Rubin succeeds in forging an indigenous style of art by combining his early Primitivism of the 1920s with both Byzantine art and the modernist styles of Paul Gauguin and Henri Rousseau. This alloy of ideas emerges as the ‘Eretz-Yisrael’ style, featuring recurring themes of the biblical landscape, folklore, and people – Yemenite, Hasidic Jews, and Arabs. For these reasons Rubin has been called “distinctly and distinctively [an] Israeli artist.” (JVL)
- Reuven Rubin
- Romanian born, Israeli, Jewish, Hasidic
- 1893 – 1974
- ARAB WOMAN WITH A POTTED PLANT
- signed Rubin (lower center)
- oil on canvas
- 23 5/8 by 19 3/4 in., 60 by 50 cm
- Painted 1923.
- Source: Sotheby’s
- Link: http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2018/israeli-international-art-n09959/lot.17.html
Jewish Virtual Library, Reuven Rubin, https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/reuven-rubin (accessed 5 Dec 2018).
Sotheby’s, Arab Woman With a Potted Plant by Reuven Rubin, http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2018/israeli-international-art-n09959/lot.17.html , (accessed 5 Dec 2018).
Engel Gallery, Reuven Rubin Biography, http://www.engel-art.co.il/artists.php?act=show&id=1033,(accessed 5 Dec 2018).
“Reuven Rubin” https://museum.imj.org.il/artcenter/newsite/en/?artist=Rubin,%20Reuven,%20Israeli,%20born%20Romania,%201893-1974 (accessed 5 Dec 2018).
Wikipedia contributors, “Reuven Rubin,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Reuven_Rubin&oldid=868911545 (accessed December 5, 2018).
Sotheby’s quotes (Carmela Rubin, Home Visit, 1998), Arab Woman With a Potted Plant by Reuven Rubin, http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2018/israeli-international-art-n09959/lot.17.html , (accessed 5 Dec 2018).
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