Motke Blum, Romanian (1925 - )

Motke Blum

Born in Romania in 1925 in a little village. At a young age his family moved to Bukarest. His greatest love as a child was the circus, situated next to his parents’ house. When not painting or playing in clay, he could be found amongst his clown friends in the circus. Motke documented these childhood memories in many of his works.
When the Germans entered Romania, Motke was taken to forced labor, and even there he continued to paint on walls. More than once his art saved his life. After escaping from the labor camp in 1944, he boarded an immigrants’ ship on his way to Israel. One of the ships in the convoy of three – the “Mefkuri” – was sunk by a German torpedo, and Motke was an eye witness to it. For many years afterwards Motke was known for his shipwrecks, boats and sea paintings.

After arriving in Israel he settled in a Kibbutz in the north. In 1946 Motke moved to Natanya where he worked as a plasterer and dreamt to paint the walls on which he was working. In 1951 he moved to Jerusalem to study in “betzalel” Art Academy. In 1952 he was accepted as a full-time student in the metal department and was invited to study painting in evening classes. Motke graduated “Betzalel” with honors in silverwork, enamel, sculpting and painting, receiving scholarships and awards. During his course of studies he was invited to participate in a UNESCO-sponsored course for restoration of ancient mosaics and frescoes, given by the late Prof. T. Orsselli, Director of the Academy of Fine Arts in Ravenna, Italy. Also during his studies he designed an Eternal Flame which was purchased by the "Zim" company and was displayed on board of the passenger liners of the company. Motke was awarded the Sonnenborn Award for this design.

In 1956 Motke went to Holland post-graduating in the design department of the Royal Silverwork Institute in Zeist. There too he was renowned for his works. In 1958 he returned to Jerusalem where he set his studio. After his return and all along the years, Motke created mosaics, paintings, and sculptures commissioned by various organizations in Israel and abroad. In 1964 he went on an exhibition tour to Europe.

Motke Participated in various group exhibition in Israel and around the world including South America, Europe, Asia and the USA, as well in subject exhibitions and various technique exhibitions including miniatures exhibitions and sculpting exhibitions.

Many works were commissioned with Motke for institutions and various people in Israel and abroad; The ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Tourism have commissioned paintings and prints which can still be seen today on walls of governmental ministries; His mosaics were commissioned for public buildings around Israel; and many of his works are included in collections of Congress and Senate members in the USA.

In 1964 Motke went on an exhibition tour to Europe and was renowned for his daring powerful paintings. In 1965 Motke studied and exhibited in the United States and returned to Israel in 1967 prior to the Six Days War. For many years after, he would not leave his beloved Jerusalem, and it was only in 1981 that he went again on a museums study tour across the United States and Canada, after receiving a special grant.

In 1990, the author and anthologist Eliane Wilson invited Motke to join her in creating the book: “Jerusalem: Reflection of Eternity” – a dialogue between text and painting dedicated to Peace and the three religions.

Motke's paintings illustrate the covers of many books, among them: A new edition of the translation of the Bible to Germen by Buber and Rosenzweig, Psalms by a Swedish publishing house, Biography of a Slovakian underground fighter and a renewed edition of Agnon's writings in English.

In 1995 the Czech Television Network commissioned a film about Motke and his art. The film crew followed Motke in his daily life and documented his work in the past and present. The movie was screened many times on Czech television and received enthusiastic reviews. In 2007 the Czech Television commissioned yet another movie, focusing on Motke's work in the past ten years.

Motke received the Ish-Shalom prize in 2005 for life achievements. In 2007 Motke's work was chosen to be the leading images of the international Holocaust project "The Secret Flame of Hope". In 2009 the municipality of Meinz in Germany commissioned an exhibition of Motke's work to commemorate International Holocaust Memorial Day

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