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Israeli Arts, Culture & Literature: Fine Arts

From the beginning of the 20th century, fine arts in Israel have shown a creative orientation influenced by the encounter between East and West, as well as by the Land itself and its development, the character of the cities and stylistic trends emanating from art centers abroad. In painting, sculpture, photography and other art forms, the country's varied landscape is the protagonist: The hill terraces and ridges produce special dynamics of line and shape; the foothills of the Negev, the prevailing grayish-green vegetation and the clear luminous light result in distinctive color effects; and the sea and sand affect surfaces. On the whole, local landscapes, concerns and politics as well as the very nature of Israeli existentialism lie at the center of Israeli art and ensure its uniqueness.

Organized art activity in the country began in 1906, the year Professor Boris Schatz (1867-1932) arrived from Bulgaria and founded the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Crafts in Jerusalem, according to a plan approved at the 1905 Zionist Congress to encourage talented young Jews to study art in the Land of Israel. By 1910, the school had 32 different departments, a student body of 500 and a ready market for its works throughout the Jewish world.

In addition to painters and sculptors, the country's artistic life comprises a host of talented craftspeople (ceramicists, silver- and goldsmiths, weavers, calligraphers, glass blowers, etc.), many of whom specialize in modern interpretations of traditional Jewish ceremonial objects.

Enthusiasm for art prevails among people from all walks of life, as Israelis encourage and support art activities by attending exhibits - from one-artist retrospectives to comprehensive group shows at the country's many museums and private galleries - by frequenting artists' quarters of Safad and Yafo or the artists' village of Ein Hod, and by purchasing the works of local artists.

Sources: Israeli Foreign Ministry