By COLlive reporter
A Chabad artist who operated some 100 years ago in Jerusalem, and passed away at the age of 41 from malnutrition and in great poverty, is being brought back to the art scene.
Two of Rabbi Meir Rozin‘s oeuvres will be sold at the upcoming action at the Kedem Auction House in Jerusalem, one of the world’s largest in the field of Judaica.
Rozin was a Lubavitcher chossid who made aliyah from Belarus in 1894 at the age of 15. He settled in Jerusalem at the end of the Ottoman rule, and began to work in crafts and art.
He aimed his works to appeal to pilgrims of different religions at a time when thousands of them flocked Jerusalem, a city that was a hub for adventurists and amateur archaeologists alike who were in quest for the city’s holiness in its stones.
Rozin painted Jerusalem and its landscapes, mainly the environs of the Old City, including the Western Wall, Mt. Zion, the Temple Mount and many other places. He also painted other sites in the land of Israel, like Tiberias and the Jordan River. His artistic style was mainly influenced by Expressionism that was quite common at the time.
“Rozin didn’t get to see much blessing in his hard toil during his lifetime,” says Meron Eren of the Kedem Auction House. “Throughout all of his working years, he lost a lot of money and hardly provided for his wife and seven children.”
Eren said that Rozin died of starvation during the first World War, and most of his surviving works were sold by his wife to support the family’s needs.
Two of Rozin’s paintings now up for sale are of the Western Wall and Rachel’s Tomb, as they looked circa 1900. Rachel’s Tomb stands alone next to the main road with an olive tree nearby, and the Western wall is displayed as the forgotten narrow alley it was back then.
The paintings bear a special formation as they have a sunken circle at their center. The hole was created by cardboard pressing on the materials on which they were drawn, the auctioneers noted.
Oded Feingersh, Rozin’s grandson and an artist himself, confirmed the authenticity of these drawings, stating that “only three pictures of this series [of the pressed oil paintings] have survived. I’ve got one, my cousins have another and the third belongs to a collector from Herzeliyah.”
The reason for that is because most of Rozin’s paintings were ruined by the force of nature. Before the first World War, Rozin sent his paintings for sale in the USA, but dockworkers left them on shore, and so many of them were damaged by the dampness.
Following that, Rozin went on to create three-dimensional models of the painted sites and in 1913 he established the Omanot Yehuda Factory, an art institute to exhibit and sell models of the ancient monuments of Jerusalem and its environs.
“Those who cannot afford a visit to Israel, can get a clear idea of its Hebrew fortresses remains from ancient times, and also works belonging to Jews from recent times by buying a few models from us,” read an advertisement for the gallery.
And indeed, in the “Souvenirs of the Holy Land” exhibition that took place 5 years ago at the Old Yishuv Court Museum in Jerusalem, part of these models were presented, including Rozin’s spectacular model for Rachel’s tomb.
These wooden drawings now for sale were made by Rozin while he was standing next to the site. He would later return home to create the wooden engravings for the three dimensional model. The apparent reason for that is that modeling the places entirely was almost impossible, as he needed to invest much effort in a specially designated room.
“Rozin was forgotten entirely,” Eren says. “We are glad to pay a special tribute to this important artist, and to fix this historical injustice.”
The auction will take place on Wednesday, July 16 and will include various objects: graphics, Judaica, Israeliana, numismatics, medals and ceramics. You can view the online catalog here.