Boris Schatz

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Boris Schatz

Boris Schatz (in Hebrew:בוריס ש"ץ, (23 December 1867 – 23 March 1932) was a Lithuanian Jewish artist and sculptor who settled in Palestine, where he founded the Bezalel School in Jerusalem.


Boris Schatz was born in Varniai, Kaunas district, Lithuania, under the rule of the Russian Empire in 1867. His father, a teacher in a cheder (a religious school), sent him to study in a yeshiva in Vilnius, Lithuania.[1] left the yeshiva a short time later to study painting and sculpture in Vilnius (1882–1887) and Warsaw, Poland (1888–1889). In 1889, he moved to Paris to study at the Académie Cormon and noted artists there, among them Mark Antokolski whom he knew from Vilnius.

Schatz was married to Louise. His daughter Zahara Schatz (1916–1999) and son Bezalel Schatz (1912–1978), nicknamed Lilik, were also artists.[2] The 1955 Israel Prize for Art was awarded to Zahara in recognition of the whole Schatz family.

While living on the shore of the Sea of Galilee during the First World War, Shatz wrote a futurist novel entitled The Rebuilt Jerusalem in which Bezalel ben Uri, the Biblical artist appears at the Bezalel School and takes Schatz on a tour of Israel in the year 2018.

Schatz died while on a fundraising tour in Denver, Colorado in 1932.

Art career[edit]

Copper relief of Jewish scribe by Boris Schatz

In 1895, Schatz accepted an invitation from Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria to become the official court sculptor and to establish that country's Royal Academy of Art. In 1900, he received a gold medal for his statue, Bust of an Old Woman.

Three years later, in 1903, he met Theodor Herzl and became an ardent Zionist. At the Fifth Zionist Congress of 1905, he proposed creating a Jewish art school. In 1906 he founded an art center in Jerusalem, later named "Bezalel" after Bezalel Ben Uri, the biblical artisan who designed the Tabernacle and its ritual objects. In the following years, Schatz organized exhibitions of his students' work in Europe and the United States; they were the first international exhibitions of Jewish artists from Palestine.

Schatz, a fiery visionary, wrote in his will: "To my teachers and assistants at Bezalel I give my final thanks for their hard work in the name of the Bezalel ideal. Moreover, I beg forgiveness from you for the great precision that I sometimes demanded of you and that perhaps caused some resentment ... The trouble was that Bezalel was founded before its time, and the Zionists were not yet capable of understanding it." Schatz's will was publicized for the first time in 2005.[3]

Bezalel art school[edit]

On his first visit to Palestine at the turn of the 20th century, Schatz purchased three buildings from by a wealthy Arab. One was used as his residence and the other two became the Bezalel art school, based on the Russian concept of an arts and crafts school and workshop. Bezalel's motto was "Art is the bud, craft is the fruit."[4]

In the wake of financial difficulties, the school closed in 1929. Schatz died while fundraising on behalf of the school in the United States. His body was brought back to Jerusalem and buried on the Mount of Olives. Bezalel reopened in 1935 as the New Bezalel School for Arts and Crafts.

Bezalel art school, 1913


Published works[edit]

  • On Art, Artists and their Critics (in Hebrew), 1924
  • The Rebuilt Jerusalem: The Rebuilt Reality (Heb.: Yerushalayim HaBenuyah) (in Hebrew), Jerusalem: Bezalel Academy, 1924


Further reading[edit]

  • Schatz, Boris (1925). Boris Schatz His Life & Work a Monograph, Jerusalem: B'nai Bezalel. ISBN 1-135-29826-2
  • J. Klausner (1927). Boris Schatz : 31 oil paintings (in English and Hebrew), Jerusalem
  • Nurit Shilo-Cohen, ed. (1983). "Betsal'el" shel Shats, 1906-1929 / Bezalel, 1906-1929, translated from Hebrew into English by Esther Rosalind Cohen, Jerusalem: Israel Museum
  • Yigal Zalmona (1985). Boris Schatz (in Hebrew), Jerusalem: Keter Publishing House Ltd.
  • Nurit Shilo Cohen (1994). "The 'Hebrew Style' of Bezalel, 1906–1929", Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts, vol. 20, pp. 140–163
  • Dana Gilerman (5 January 2006). "Prof. Schatz's wayward children," Haaretz
  • Meir Ronnen (20 July 2006). "The last Schatz," The Jerusalem Post
  • Diana Muir Appelbaum, "First, Build an Art School", Jewish Ideas Daily, Aug. 1, 2012 [1]
  • Aviva Lori (January 2013). "The long-lost daughter of the father of Israeli art" — the story of Angelica Schatz (Boris Schatz's unknown daughter)

External links[edit]