by Mordechai Hampel
Translated by Ricky Benhart (nee Schikman)
He was creative from an artistic point of view in Israel. We, the former youth of Będzin, as early as the First World War period, did not know him as a painter, but as an enthusiastic young man who brought in so much life into out midst.
He was captivated and caught up in the Zionistic mood and nationalistic feelings of freedom, and lets himself be drawn to Israel with the first pioneers of the Third Aliyah. The actual reality in the country that he came face-to-face with, was not as ideal nor as romantic as the sweet dream which he carried around in his heart. After working for one year in the I.C.A. [Jewish Colonization Association] in the Galilee, he left the country; the country which impressed him greatly and in spite of all the disappointments, he grew to love so much.
He left for America to study. It is only here that it was revealed in him, later in his life, the tendency for painting. It appears that the artistic spark was hidden him from as early as his childhood, and only then the fulfillment and expression had been realized.
He then moved to Paris, where he studied painting. His teachers and professors predicted that he had a future which he did indeed fulfill.
I saw his first exhibition 20 years ago in a Tel Aviv museum. Since then he visited Israel often, until he settled in Tel Aviv where he worked prolifically.
He seldom paints landscapes or still-life. He is individualistic and has his
specific form and style. He controls the technique of light and shadow. A
stroke here and stroke there; a splash, and again a splash, and all of sudden
an image appears before you, a being, full of life.
Oil paintings by Abram Goldberg
Once, when he was in our midst, we discussed things that were familiar to us. We uncovered sweet memories of life in Będzin. He spoke of these times with such loneliness and a feeling of loss.
In the 6th tome of the colossal Hebrew Encyclopedia under the chapter entitled Art in Israel (pg 1082/3), there is a summary of Goldberg's paintings and sketches, of which they write that the are some in the Bezalel Museum in Jerusalem, in Tel Aviv, Mishkan Ein Charod [Art museum in Kibbutz Ein Charod] and in museums in the Diaspora.
It is not without merit that he acquired such a unique place in the artistic
family of the State of Israel.
by Dawid Liwer
Translated by Ricky Benhart (nee Schikman)
Mosze Apelbaum was not born in Będzin, but he spent the last years of his life there, and became attached to the city. Here he created some of his most beautiful work, the relief of the East Wall of the Będzin Synagogue. As he himself expressed it, those were the years that he didn't suffer from hunger.
Born in 1887, he spent his childhood years in Amszinow [Mszczonów], in an environment where the essence of the word 'artist' was not understood. He was raised in a poor home, living off a dry piece of bread, some vegetables, potatoes, onions, carrots were a luxury. Even as a 12-year old youngster he would draw by the light of a small little lamp. He drew with charcoal and only when his father didn't notice that he was neglecting his studies. At 15 he ran away from home to Kalisz, where he worked as a painter. At 18 he had advanced so far in his drawings that a textile factory employed him as a designer of the motifs of the fabrics that they manufactured.
He decided to travel, hoping to study art. He arrived to Vienna where he didn't manage to integrate. He went hungry and ended up going on foot to Germany, wandering from village to village, and living off the 50 farthings to one mark that he received from the sale of some of his drawings. Thus he arrived to Amsterdam, where he believed he would be able to study, but there, also, the young artist went hungry, because no one was interested in him. At that point in his life he had two goals, 1) to eat until satiated and 2) to study art.
At 20 he arrived to Liverpool. In that city he earned a living as a delivery boy. He often spent his time in bars where sailors frequented the premises. That is where he drew sailor types and with the meager earnings he survived with great difficulty. He finally succeeded to be accepted to the Art School where he studied for 2 years under extremely difficult physical conditions. He carried loads of chopped wood and on the face of the young artist deep wrinkles appeared through his need and his suffering.
In 1914 Apelbaum studied in the Art Academy of London and at the end of 1918 he
exhibited his works for the first time, the motifs of Whitechapel, the Jewish
Quarter, as well as a great deal of his works dealing with the lives of the
English laborer. Although he could have established himself based on the
success of his exhibition in London, he decided, however, to return to Poland.
He was drawn to the large Jewish community where he hoped to find inspiration
and a large working field. He came to Warsaw where he became involved in
pioneering work – to draw scenery for the Yiddish theater which left much to be
desired at the time. Here, in Poland, the artist flourished, being inspired by
the Jewish folk masses. He was an artist with a broad horizon and brought out
on the canvas Jewish life with its social problems.
Oil painting by Mosze Apelbaum
In 1925 Apelbaum accepted the proposition of the Będziner Jewish community to decorate the inside of the synagogue and together with 2 other artists, the sculptor Chaim Hanft and the painter Szmul Cygler from Sosnowiec, these 3 artists succeeded in realizing this gigantic artistic work. Relying on old designs of wall paintings dating from the Renaissance era, they created this art masterpiece. The painting of the synagogue was on a very high artistic level, especially the relief of the Eastern Wall, where Apelbaum concentrated and dedicated all of his artistic efforts.
This was confirmed by many other artists and art critics of the time who visited the synagogue. Reproductions of these works can be found in the Tel Aviv museum as well as in the Bezalel Museum in Jerusalem. The work of these 3 artists took over a year to finish and Będzin had indeed the only synagogue in Poland that was painted on the interior by artists. When a stranger came to visit the city, the first thing he was shown was the synagogue painting. The Jewish Press in Poland wrote that Warsaw, Lodz and other cities should take Będzin as an example of their attitude toward Jewish artists.
Apelbaum settled in Katowice nearby, where he painted the hardship of the
Jewish coal miners. Even though these were his best years, still the years that
he had suffered from hunger and need left their scars on the body of the young
artist. He fell ill and thus, on January 3, 1931, Mosze Apelbaum passed away.
|The saying of Psalms
An oil painting, by Mosze Apelbaum
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