The 120th Anniversary of Nahum Gutman's Birth
Curator Monica Lavi
The Nahum Gutman Museum of Art is celebrating the 120th anniversary of the birth of painter, illustrator, and writer Nahum Gutman with a retrospective exhibition of his work. The show reveals Gutman the “cartographer,” who combined map references, landmarks, and mental maps in his paintings, whereby he rearranged his childhood realms which extended between Jaffa and Tel Aviv.
The exhibition outlines a route which passes from Jaffa, through the Neve Sha’anan neighborhood, to Tel Aviv, following Gutman’s life. It ties his chronicles and body of work with the landscape and topography of the time, illustrating his use of concepts and signs from the doctrine of cartography to assimilate his private memories in the myth about Tel Aviv’s establishment, which he helped create.
Alongside Gutman’s works, the exhibition features still photographs, maps, and aerial photographs which shed light on the area between Jaffa and Tel Aviv, enabling a reconsideration of his work, which has, thus far, relied primarily on exegetic tools from the fields of Orientalism, colonialism, and psychoanalysis.
Gutman’s childhood memories consist of views of Jaffa and its neighborhoods and the establishment of Tel Aviv. Both these cities left indelible imprints on the young Gutman, who arrived in Jaffa from Russia at the age of 7, and moved to Tel Aviv with his family at 12, shortly after his mother’s passing. These memories of a new beginning, loss, and reconstruction erupt in the adult Gutman, by this point an artist and a family man, and are linked to the places where they occurred. Gutman depicted Jaffa and its citrus groves with vivid, compressed, sensual, and saturated coloration; he drew the nascent Tel Aviv in ink and pencil on yellowish papers, and set up his home near that of his parents, who were among the city’s founders.
Throughout his artistic career, Gutman strove to close the experiential, emotional, biographic, and geographic split he carried with him—his faithfulness to his childhood memories from both cities. He created panoramic maps from a bird’s-eye view which united Jaffa and Tel Aviv into a continuous tranquil space which disregards the political reality in situ.
We invite you to embark on a magical journey through landscapes that have disappeared from view, yet remain etched in old maps and in Gutman’s works, which combine truth and fiction, personal testimony and collective memory.
Image: Ron Arda