Yosl Bergner

Oil on canvas, 60X73 cm.
Signed. Titled on the reverse.

Provenance: Firon Collection.

The fate of children in Yosl Bergner paintings.
Since his painting ”Death in the Family” from 1956, portraying faces of a sad family, the image of the mother holding her dead son returns.
As too in the painting ”Saints” from 1961. This Jewish ’Pieta’ by Bergner – death of a son – expresses a deep emotion of his own dead childhood, in Warsaw, from which he, together with his sister (and parents) were expelled in 1937 and sent alone to Melbourne Australia.
From thereon, Bergner never ceased to identify himself with that of a melancholic boy or girl, at times even as sad clowns (”Little Clown”, 1958).
As such, dressed in clown clothing, they entered into his seemingly ”Surrealist” period, sitting with their families around the table and feeding on butterflies (1965), or ”hunted” birds on trees in a barren landscape (1963) and more.
Time and again they are portrayed together with their families in absurd yet poetical scenes as the uprooted refugee, victims of a ruthless destiny.
In this painting from 1969 (inspired by Magritte paintings), we encounter the figure of Bella (the title given by Bergner), a young girl, gazing directly at us, the sea and the skies in the background, large stones falling above her.
These are sculpted stones, the stones of a demolished house, but also stones of punishment thrown at her from the skies for no reason.
Notice that the girl is not only a tragic victim of a blind metaphysical destiny, forced upon her by the destruction of his home, loneliness and devastation: Bella holds one of the stones as though hanging on to the memory of her home and possibly accepting her fate as a refugee, the silence of the sea and the sky behind her offer no solace.
These days, as hundreds and thousands of Syrian and African refugees drown in the Mediterranean; Bergner’s painting is as relevant as ever. But in his painting, not even a European shore awaits the little girl in the horizon. For Bergner as with Bergner’s paintings: the wanderings of the refugee never come to an end.
(Translated and adapted from Gidon Ofrat)

Estimated price: $12,000 - $18,000

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About: Yosl Bergner

Yosl Bergner is one of Israel's most valued and important artists. Bergner was born Joseph Vladimir in Vienna, and grew up in a house full of culture and matters of the spirit: his father was a poet who among other things translated some of Franz Kafka's books into Yiddish. His mother was a singer, his uncle Moshe, one of the people who influenced him most was a painter. In general, Yosl remembers a household that was constantly filled with culture and matters of the spirit, whether in creation or in a dialog about it. At the age of 17 he immigrated to Australia with his sister, where he studied at the Melbourne Academy of the Arts and continued to surround himself with cultural people, especially one who became his closest friend for decades to come: the poet Yosl Birstein. Yosl Bergner's wife, Audrey, is a painter. And after the two immigrated to Israel together in 1950 their home was always a meeting place for intellectuals of sorts - first in Safed, and a few years later on Bilu Street in central Tel Aviv. After immigrating to Israel, he changed his first name to Yosl and soon became one of the busiest and most admired artists in Israel. His paintings documented the different walks of life in Israel's early days, mainly through motifs that were considered exilic. . Over the years, the public grasp of his paintings changed as those exilic motifs ostensibly became an inseparable part of Israeli lives, and Bergner's style changed as well. his paintings became brighter, more colorful, and to a certain extent happier, though one of the main characteristics of his work over the years was the delicate fusion between sadness and joy. In addition to his expressive paintings, Yosl Bergner was also known to illustrate books, including many classics, he was even known to be a set designer - especially for plays of the late Nissim Aloni (by the way, Aloni wrote The Bride and the Butterfly Hunter after being inspired by a series of famous paintings Bergner painted, it included The Three Girls and the Butterfly and The Butterfly Eaters). Another prominent motif in Bergner's work is the kitchen grader, which appears in many paintings and was greatly anthropomorphized by the artist. Other kitchen utensils also appear in of Yosl Bergner's paintings. His explanation for it is that during his childhood, in the absence of "ordinary" toys, he would play with kitchen utensils. In many interviews Bergner defines himself as a professional and not as an artist, although there is no doubt that he is one of the greatest painters in the history of Israel, evidence to that is the Israel Prize for Arts he received in 1980.
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