Mordecai Ardon, Israeli (1896 - 1992)

Mordecai Ardon

Mordecai Ardon (1896-1992) is considered by many to be Israel's greatest painter. He studied at the Bauhaus (1921-25) under Klee, Kandinsky, Feininger and Itten. The influence of the Bauhaus and especially of Paul Klee on his artistic development was profound and lasted a life time. The other great source of inspiration were the Old Masters, especially Rembrandt, and El Greco. After graduating from the Bauhaus he studied the painting techniques of the Old Masters under Max Doerner, at the Munich Academy (1926).

These dual, seemingly contradicting elements, forged the character of his painting throughout the 70 years of his artistic career. Ardon's unique position in Modern Art stems from the union of these two opposites in his paintings: A Modern, Expressionist, and mainly Abstract, style, with the classical painting technique of the Old Masters. The depth and richness of his colours owe their quality to this technique. He liberated them from the figurative context of the Old Masters, and turned them into tools for the creation of his original contribution to Modern Art of the 20th Century.

Ardon believed in pure art devoid of any political or social message. He believed that a painting should be appreciated and judged solely by its inherent artistic elements, color, composition and their interplay. He rejected literary, symbolic or, indeed, any other additional meaning attributed to a work of art. Yet, although he tried, he could not always overcome his urge to create an artistic expression of his horror of war and injustice. This urge culminated in the eight monumental triptychs which he created between 1955 and 1988, but is also found in many other paintings, such as Khirbet Khize and Fatal Eclipse. In a letter to Willem Sandberg, the legendary director of the Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam (and later, the first director of the Israel Museum), he acknowledges this inner conflict, which he likens to the historic conflict between Athens and Jerusalem.

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