Nahum Gutman

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Nachum Gutman
Nahum Gutman
1898, Bassarabia
1980, Tel Aviv
Israeli, painter, illustrator, photographer, sculptor and writer
Israel Prize, 1978
Nahum Gutman was one of the founders of the Israeli art style and 25 years after his death was voted one of the 'all time 200 Israelis'.

Nahum Gutman, an Israeli artist, grew up in Tel Aviv along with the new city, and many of his paintings reflect the simplicity of the time. He was an accomplished illustrator, photographer and writer and was awarded the prestigious Israel Prize in 1978.


[edit] Background

Nachum Gutman was born in 1898 in Bassarabia, Moldovia, and taken in 1905 as a young child to live in Jaffa, of then Ottoman ruled Palestine. Later his family moved to the newly created Ahuzat Bayit neighborhood, which grew into the first new Jewish city in 2000 years - Tel Aviv. He was one of the first children to live in Tel Aviv and many of his paintings reflect the creation of this modern city out of sand dunes. He also wrote a book about his experiences - A Small City with Few People.

[edit] Art Training

Nahum Gutman began his training as an artist at the Bezalel Art Academy in Jerusalem, but felt the European techniques taught in the school were inadequate for the Middle Eastern landscape and light. During the First World War he served in the Jewish Legion, and after the war Nahum traveled around Europe to further his art education. After he returned to Tel Aviv in 1926, Gutman began his artist career in earnest.

[edit] Style

Gutman worked in a variety of media, especially gouache, oils and watercolor. A writer, both for adults and children, he drew his own illustrations for children’s books and was also an accomplished photographer and sculptor. Nachum Gutman helped to develop a truly Israeli art style, which is still admired today.

[edit] Themes

His drawings and paintings reflect the growth of Tel Aviv, the simple life of the people, the landscape and development of the Yishuv (the Jewish settlement in pre-state Israel), and of course the sea. Between the 1950’s and the 1970’s Gutman focused on painting the sea in all its moods, both in oils and watercolors, not only Jaffa, Tel Aviv and Haifa, but also Herzliya and Tiberius. Nahum Gutman produced posters, Judaica, prints and lithographs, as well as a illustrating a children’s weekly magazine for over thirty years.

[edit] Famous Works

Apart from Nachum Gutman’s beautiful illustrated Haggadahs designed for both adults and children, he was one of the first writers to write children’s literature in Hebrew, for which he won many prizes. Gutman illustrated the poetry of Bailik, Israel’s national poet, as well as various other books.

Inside the Shalom Tower there is a series of Gutman’s mosaics depicting the history of Tel Aviv, while for Tel Aviv’s urban landscape Gutman produced outdoor sculptures. One such is his fountain opposite the old Tel Aviv municipal building.

[edit] Legacy

Although Nahum Gutman died in 1980 his impact on Israel and Israeli art is such that he was voted the 110th greatest Israeli of all time in a 2005 newspaper poll. His children’s books are still read. These and other books he wrote or illustrated are still available. His paintings, prints and lithographs can be found online and his work often comes up for sale in auction houses. Gutman’s art is also displayed in many museums.

[edit] Museum

In the Neve Tzedek neighborhood of Tel Aviv there is a Nachum Gutman museum which has a history of his life. His large oeuvre of work is on display in rotation and in special exhibitions. The museum offers special activities for children as well as touring exhibitions and educational programs.

[edit] Stamps

In 2008 the Israeli Post Office released a series of stamps for the Tel Aviv Centennial in 2009 depicting Gutman’s pictures of the city's early years.

[edit] Awards

Throughout his life Nachum Gutman received many awards and prizes, from the Dizengoff Prize for painting in 1938, to an Honorary Doctorate from Tel Aviv University in 1974. In 1976 he received an Honorary Citizenship from Tel Aviv, while in 1978 Gutman was awarded Israel’s most prestigious award - the Israel Prize.

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