Nahum Gutman’s clay statuettes
Curator: Michal Broshi-Nachmany
“The blind man accepted his fate without cursing, blaspheming neither man nor Allah, like Job” — Nahum Gutman, A Little City and Few Men Within It: Stories of the beginning of Tel Aviv written and Illustrated by Nahum Gutman
In 1968, Nahum Gutman underwent an eye operation; unable to draw, he began searching for an art medium that would not strain his eyes. He then began to make sculptures in clay. After a while he was able to see again, but making the clay statuettes fascinated him and was for a time his major creative channel.
Gutman’s self-portrait in clay depicts his state: hollow eyes, like those of a blind man, his finger groping its way on the painting. Gutman’s temporary blindness caused him to turn inwards, as memories, yearnings, and thoughts became embodied in the clay. He returned to themes in which he engaged as a young artist, subjects such as “Job and his friends.” The spirit of his grandmother and major figures from his childhood, such as the poet Bialik and the writer Brenner, returned to him. Gutman also made personal versions of wrestlers, the theme of many sculptures by his teacher, Franz Berwig, made in his workshop in Vienna.
Many of the sculptures evoke melancholy contemplations on human beings and the bitterness of fate. Along with the slightly humorous edge, joie de vivre, and love of humanity that characterize his oeuvre, a different Nahum Gutman is revealed: critical, thoughtful man summing up his life.