Yohanan Simon

Rest in the kibbutz, 1946, Oil on wood, 37×28.5 cm. Signed and dated. Literature and Exhibition: Yochanan Simon, ”Double Portrait”, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tali Tamir, 2001, p. 195 (Illustrated). This is one of the more classic and more important paintings of Yohanan Simon. This painting was exhibited at the Tel Aviv Museum in 2001 in a retrospective of Simon, a painting that was documented in the exhibition’s book under the title After Work (Tali Tamir, Yohanan Simon: Double Portrait, p. 195). It is also possible to look at it as a prototype, perhaps for Simon’s most famous painting Shabbat in the Kibbutz (1947, Tel Aviv Museum Collection). Simon, who emigrated to Israel in 1936, celebrated back in 1946 (the year he painted the aforementioned painting) his tenth year of living in Kibbutz Gan Shmuel. At the time he expressed Realism in his paintings, which celebrated the glory of the healthy and ideal life on the kibbutz (he was greatly inspired by the marxist wall paintings of the Mexican painter Diego Rivera, whom Simon met in 1934 in New York, and by the monumental paintings of Fernand Leger). The ending of World War II had also contributed to the optimistic vibe in the paintings from 1946 and 1947, Themed as the collective; the group; and the immediate family (that was considered a controversial concept in the kibbutzim of Hashomer Hatza’ir). By using earthy colors, shades that blend warmth and worldliness (another word for Marxist materialism), Simon crafted young, robust figures that were characterized by round lines, but also by thick black contours that ensure stability. This is the time which portrayals the ”after work” hour, the time for parents to meet with their children: the mother – Simon’s heroine, is dressed in a simple manner (blue skirt, white shirt, red kerchief on her head). Sitting on her lap is her little girl, the girl’s younger brother is hugging the father’s legs while the father is holding a hoe over his shoulder, wearing a Tembel hat (round brimless hat). Through this ”togetherness” of family, harmony, work, gender equality, land – Simon brings together all of the families in this painting with an idleness of circular unity. Here is a picture of utopia, an answer to the great destruction in Europe and the taste for hope of the (then Mandatory Palestine) Israeli Yishuv during the struggle for independence. The children in Simon’s paintings represent the future and the acceptance of the idea behind a heavenly collective life. A reminder: the Biblical Garden of Eden ordered the negation of the laborious work, and according to this Simon made very few drawings of labor but created pictures of restipe in the style of Evening at the kibbutz, Shabbat in the kibbutz, etc. These paintings would be exhibited by Simon in 1947 in his solo exhibition on the luxurious second floor of the then Dizengoff House and Tel Aviv Museum (Today’s Independence Hall). This was his second exhibition at the Museum (after the one from 1944) and Simon was recognized as one of the leader panteres in Israel. It should be emphasized that Simon strongly rejected Soviet Socialist Realism. He prefered the concept of Social Realism” which he found was not contradicting to the trend of abstraction, to which he would join in 1948 as a member of Ofakim Hadashim. Because still, even with all of the emphasis on the recruited ideological content of his paintings, Yohanan Simon never compromised on formal values. In 1952, Simon would leave Gan Shmuel and start the more bourgeois chapter of his life, between Tel Aviv and Herzliya Pituah. Gideon Ofrat

Estimated price: $30,000 - $50,000

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About: Yohanan Simon

Johann Simon is a German-born painter who has become particularly identified with the kibbutz movement and with socialist realism. Simon was born in 1905 and in 1936 immigrated to Israel and settled in Kibbutz Gan Shmuel, where he found himself engaged in a variety of works, but hardly painted. At the same time, his great talent did not go unnoticed by the captains of the "Kibbutz HaArtzi" and they recruited him for the benefit of glorifying the kibbutz movement through art. He painted pathos filled posters for "Shomer Hatzair", paintings that present the kibbutz life as particularly successful and in particular family scenes that combine happiness and intimacy, as well as works that glorify the value of the work and the beauty of the land (in a period that was defined as the "brown period"). Thus Simon was chosen to paint the official proclamation of the first Independence Day as well as a proclamation for May 1, 1950. In 1953, Simon made another significant turning point, both in terms of lifestyle and style - he separated from his first wife, moved to Tel Aviv, and began painting in his studio (located at 125 Rothschild Boulevard, a very short distance from the house of another famous painter, Yosl Bergner ) in a completely different style from the one that characterized him in the kibbutz. His works during this period became modern, abstract, very colorful and full of optimism - mainly influenced by his journey to South America - and towards the end of his life he even moved to surrealist paintings influenced by Juan Miró. Simon is also known for his oversized murals to which he was exposed during his travels to New York and Italy. In the year 50, he created a number of murals in universities, factories and public buildings, and even on ships of the Zim company. On his travels to South America he also created well-known murals in Brazil and Argentina.
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