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Reuven Rubin

RUBIN, REUVEN (1893–1974), Israeli painter. Born in Galats, Romania, the son of Feiga and Joel Zelicovici, Rubin drew from the time he was a young ḥeder pupil. At 14 he had already published his drawings in local illustrated journals and books. In 1912 Rubin traveled to Jerusalem intending to study in the Bezalel School of Art and Design. A year later he moved to Paris to study at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and at the Academie Colarossi. Rubin returned to Tel Aviv only in 1923 but continued to travel and to exhibit all over the world. Pictures by Rubin were acquired by the world's main museums, such as the Musée National d'Art Modern in Paris (Goldfish Vendor, 1955) and the Museum of Modern Art in New York (The Flute Player, 1940). In Israel his art works appeared in national institutes, such as the painting The Glory of Galilee (1965–66) located in the Knesset in Jerusalem and the stained glass windows in the Residence of the President of Israel in Jerusalem (1969). Rubin participated in the Venice Biennale more than once. He was the first Israeli minister plenipotentiary to Romania (1949–50).

Rubin was awarded the Israel Prize in 1973. In 1974 Rubin signed a contract with Tel Aviv's mayor in which he turned his house over to the city. This building, which stands on Bialik Street near the Bialik House as well as close to the old municipality building, became the Rubin House Museum.

Most of Rubin's pictures expressed the local environment of Ereẓ Israel. The views reflect the landscapes, the flora, the fauna, and the variety of types of people he saw in the country, all painted in a unique way combining naïve and simplified styles.

The naïve image was created mainly by the distortion of proportions. The lack of shadows, the existence of contour lines, and the strange perspective were part of the naïve style of the 1930s and expressed Rubin's impression regarding the significance of the location. In a self-portrait he showed himself as a dark-skinned person with a half-open shirt, seated on a simple stool. The view that appeared through the window was mostly a view of Jaffa with Arabic figures and houses (Self Portrait, 1925, Paris).

During the 1940s he described the olive fields of the Galilee. The figures he dealt with were the biblical figures that he had felt especially close to since he had been a child and even more so when he was situated in Israel. His picture series Jerusalem the Golden combined the real landscape of the Judean Mountains and the imaginary temple set in its supposed original place. Later in the windows of the President's Residence he combined fragments from his art works with the biblical scenes of Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, King David Enters Jerusalem and Elijah Ascending to Heaven. Although it was a huge project using a new technique, Rubin, then approaching his 76th year, accepted the assignment with delight. He declared the windows his gift to the nation.


S. Wilkinson, Reuven Rubin (1975); Tel Aviv, Rubin museum, Catalogue of the Permanent Collection, 1993.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.