Romanian-born Rubin Zelicovici had a dream when he first set foot in Ottoman Palestine in 1912. His dream was to be an artist in Israel, to create an art with deep roots in ancient Jewish and Biblical folklore, an art that would link European and Asian art. Arriving in Jerusalem, he started to sign his drawings “Reuven” in Hebrew and “Rubin” in Roman characters. He enrolled at the Bezalel School in Jerusalem, but quickly found himself at odds with the conservative approach of the teachers there, and left to study in Paris in 1913.
At the outbreak of World War I, Rubin returned to Romania, where he spent the war years. In 1923, he emigrated to Mandate Palestine where he became one of the founders of the new Eretz-Yisrael (land of Israel) style. Rubin’s work recorded the biblical landscape, folklore, and people of his new country. Creating harmonies in shades of black and infinite varieties of ochres, browns, and sepias, his work is at once primitive and modern, and always lyrical. He often expresses himself through bold lines, splashed ink, and watercolor.
Rubin is described as Israel’s national artist and has earned international acclaim. His figures represent the land of Israel as Rubin knew it, such as sheep shearers, fishermen, water carriers, and in this example, a mother and her infant. Rubin wrote: “I paint what I love; my people, my family, my country. To paint is to sing, and every artist must sing his own song.”