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Bezalel

[Heb. Betsal’el].
Israeli Academy of Arts and Design. It takes its name from the biblical artist Bezalel, son of Uri, one of the craftsmen whom Moses commissioned to build and decorate the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 31:1–5,35:30–32). It was founded in Jerusalem in 1906 by Boris Schatz (1866–1932), a Jewish artist of Latvian origin, and was at first known as the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts. Schatz also founded the Bezalel Museum (incorporated into the Israel Museum). The inhabitants of 19th-century Palestine, both Jewish and non-Jewish, had produced mostly folk art, ritual objects and olive-wood and shell-work souvenirs, so the founding of Bezalel provided a professional and ideological framework for the arts and crafts in Jerusalem. A major part of Schatz’s school was the workshops, which, starting with rug-making and silversmithing, eventually offered 30 different crafts; they employed workers and students, of whom there were 450 in 1913, in manufacturing, chiefly for export, decorative articles ranging from cane furniture, inlaid frames and ivory and wood carvings, to damascened and filigree objects. For Schatz, Bezalel was not merely a commercial enterprise, but a stage towards a Utopian society, as adumbrated by John Ruskin, whom he admired. Intended to create an original national style, Bezalel artefacts were a mixture of oriental styles and techniques with Art Nouveau features and influences from the Arts and Crafts Movement. The subjects were a combination of traditional Jewish images, Zionist symbols, biblical themes, views of the Holy Land and depictions of the flora and fauna of Palestine.


Bezalel Academy Building with the Dead Sea in background, 2009

 

 

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