Shalom of Safed Microcalligraphy
|Shalom Moskowitz, Shulem der Zeigermacher, Shalom the Watchmaker, Shalom of Tzfat
|Pioneering Safed artist in the craft of micralligraphy.
Shalom of Safed lived and worked in Tzfat. He began to paint in his senior years but quickly drew the attention of the Israeli art scene as well as collectors from around the world. His works have inspired other artists to continue the genre in Tzfat.
Microcalligraphy is an ancient art which has enjoyed a revived popularity amongst Judaica collectors. In works of microcalligraphy the artist writes Biblical texts in tiny lettering and surrounds the text with illustrative paintings, usually watercolors or acrylics. The text itself also takes on a form which is included in the illustration. Jewish microcalligraphy artists use verses and texts from the Bible, as well as other holy writings, to create a story’s illustration. Microcalligraphy artists can include an entire Book from the Bible in one painting.
 Shalom of Tzfat Background
Shalom of Tzfat, called “Shulem der Zeigermacher” (Shalom the Watchmaker) lived in Tzfat for his entire life. He was born in 1887 and worked as a watchmaker, silversmith, scribe and stonemason. After the War of Independence, when his workshop had been destroyed, he took up painting. By this point he was over 60 years old. The well-known Israeli artist Yosl Bergner saw his works and encouraged him. Bergner felt that Shalom’s microcalligraphy and other paintings represented true Jewish and Israeli folk art. Israeli and worldwide collectors began to pay attention to Shalom’s art and soon began to collect his works.
Shalom produced works of art in which he wrote, in microcalligraphy, the texts from the books of the Bible. He then painted pictures which illustrated the text, using the microcalligraphy-text as the base. Shalom’s Hasidic heritage guided his art into which he included Biblical and mystical texts combined with the region’s landscape. The progression of his art through the years reveals his affinity and commitment to the Scriptures as, in parallel. His spiritual development paralleled his visual development and he transported Biblical images to the 20th century by integrating details of contemporary local life into his paintings. In addition to his works of microcalligraphy Shalom also painted non-microcalligraphy paintings.
Shalom’s works combined precise two-dimensional figures into horizontal sequences which would tell a story. He created pictorial unity amongst discrepancies in scale between settings and figures. He placed figures and groups in complex compositions to heighten the expressive effect. He depicted figures in silhouette or profile and established connections between groups in the work’s narrative.
 Microcalligraphy Today in Safed
Shalom of Safed worked in Tzfat until his death in 1980. His works were famous and put Tzfat on the map as the center of microcalligraphy in Israel and the world. Galleries in Tzfat no longer exhibit his works but he served as the inspiration of other local artists who incorporated his ideas and styles into their own microcalligraphy works.