Australian Jewish Artists

The Australian Jewish community has produced and continues to foster a large number of Jewish artists who include: 1. Aby 'Farmer 'Altson (1867-c. 1949), 2. Louis Abrahams (1852-1903) who was one of the founding members of the Heidelberg School, together with Tom Roberts and Frederick McCubbin, who painted in the open-air painters' camp at Box Hill, 3. Yosl Bergner (b.1920), 4. Horace Brodsky, who exhibited by Picasso, Modigliani and Pissaro (d. 1969), 5. Judy Cassab (1910-), 6. Miles Evergood (1871-1939), 7. Cedric Emanuel (1906-1995), 8. Ruth Faerber (b. 1922), 9. Maximilian Fuerring (1896-1986),10. Sali Herman 11. Louis Kahan (1905-2002),12. Desiderius Orban (1884-1986) and 13. Jenny Sages (1933- )

1. Aby'Farmer' Altson (1867-1949)

Aby Altson migrated to Australia from England to join his brother Barnett in 1883, and worked in his uncle's leather and saddlery business. He began art classes at the Gallery School of Design in 1886, and spent his leisure with members of the 'Heidelberg' painting school where he painted a number of small oil panels on cigar-lids from his brother's tobacconist shop.

In 1890 he on a travelling scholarship where he studied with Gustave Courtois and Pascal-Adolphe-Jean-Dagnan-Bouveret at the Academie Julian in Paris. He won a salon gold medal for his painting Echoin 1892, and from 1894-1898 worked in London as an illustrator for The Westminister Magazine. Between 1895 and 1936 he travelled frequently to India, and became the official portrait painter for several Indian maharajas. When he migrated to USA in 1937, he became a much sort after women's portrait painter. Among his best portraits is his prize winning 1889 portait of his sister-in-law, which is in the National Gallery of Victoria. His Flood Suffering in 1890 was acclaimed by critics as the best painting of that year.

2. Louis Abrahams (1852-1903)

Louis Abrahams migrated to Australia when he was eight and studied at the Melbourne Gallery School. In 1885 together with Tom Roberts and Frederich McCubbin he was founder of the open-air painter's camp in Box Hill, that came to be known as the Heidelberg School. His paintings of this period include watercolours which vividly show the plein-airist method of painting which he pioneered. In 1886 and 1887 he exhibited paintings and etchings with the Australian Artists' Association. When he married in 1888, he opened a studio in central Melbourne but was unable to give much time to the centre at Heidelberg, because his time was spent with his father's cigar business. However, he provided numerous cigar-box lids for his contemporaries on which to work, the result being the 9 x5 inch Impression Exhibition in 1889. He himself used this small medium for some very fine work. Tragically he suicided in 1903.

3. Yosyl Bergner (1920-)

Yosyl Bergner, born in Vienna, spent much of his chidhood in Warsaw and is the son of the Yiddish poet and essayist Melech Ravitch. When he migrated to Australia in 1937 Bergner continued his studies at the National Art School in Melbourne. He has lived in Israel since 1951. In his youth, his artist friends in Australia included Arthur Boyd, Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Danila Vassilieff and Noel Counihan. Today Bergner is one of Israel's most popular and successful painters, having worked through a number of styles including expressionism and surrealism.

Bergner was brought up in Warsaw among the Yiddish literary circle which surrounded his father. Among these writers were Sholem Asch and Nobel Prize Winner Isaac Bashevis Singer. In addition, his father, Melech Ravitch belonged to a group called led by Isaac Steinberg who believed the Jews should leave Europe. Travelling to Australia, the latter thought like Steinberg to establish a Jewish settlement in the Kimberleys, but this dream was never realised. Ravitch's family headed the warning to leave Europe and his wife Fanya Bergner Ravitch, his brother Hertz Bergner a writer, Josyl and his sister Ruth, a dancer, stettled in Melbourne. Josyl had difficulty making a living from painting, and then made contact with the writer Judah Waten, who introduced him to the artists in the new Contemporary Art Society.

Bergner is remembered for a series of paintings of Australian aborigines, depicting their unhappy transition from the bush to the slums of Fitzroy. He is considered to be one of the most influential figures in the social Realism movement of Australian art in the 1940s. After the war broke out, Bergner began painting on specific Jewish themes, and caused a stir by exhibiting a series of about twenty works in which he depicted his imagined vision of the Warsaw Ghetto. Yosl inherited from his father a hatred of poverty, cruelty and suffering, out of which he created the substance of his art. He deeply influenced Albert Tucker, Noel Counihan, Arthur Boyd and John Percival. It was not just Bergner's painting style that influenced his contemporaries, but his gregarious personality, exuberance and his ability to convey to his listeners something of the agony of Europe. When Bergner finally arrived in Israel, he again began painting displaced people. He has also painted the images he found in Kafka's writings. Ironically, Bergner's work has been largely marginalaised in Australia while the work of those he deeply influenced now is sold for huge amounts of money. His archives are housed in Jerusalem at the Jewish National Library.

4. Horace Brodzky (1885-1979)

Horace Brodzky was born in Melbourne and was the first Australian to work with lino-cuts and one of the first exponents of modern line drawing. He was also the first Australian to gain admission to the London Group in Edwardian England, a select body which included such artists as Wyndam Lewis, Lucian Pissaro and Jacob Epstein. By 1920 he had exhibited with Picasso and the British sculptor Gaudier-Brzeska and had worked in Melbourne, London, San Francisco and New York. His father, Maurice Brodzky had immigrated to Australia from the Ukraine, arriving on New Year's Eve 1871. He became a journalist with the Melbourne Herald and in the year Horace was born founded Table Talk, a weekly newspaper, through which he acquired a reputation as one of Australia's first investigative journalists. His reports on the land boom scandals landed him in court and bankrupted him, forcing the family which now consisted of seven children, to emigrate to the United States. In 1967, two years before Horace Brodzsky died, Macey's department store in New York put on an exhibition of his oils, drawings and graphics. It was perhaps a gesture of recognition that could be described as "too lttle, too late."

5. Judy Cassab (1920- )

Judy Cassab, one of Australia's greatest portrait painters has been awarded two Archibald Prizes in 1961 and 1968 and the Sir Charles Jones memorial Prize three times. Her portrait of media mogul Sir Frank Packer hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra. She was born Judy Kaszab in Vienna to Hungarian parents. Cassab's painting enabled her to survive the Holocaust. Having acquired identity papers from her family's maid, she was able to study art in Budapest. Her mother perished in Auschwitz and her husband Jancsi Kampfner was incarcerated in forced labour camps in Poland and Russia. In 1949 Cassab and Kampfner fled Hungary for Vienna to become displaced persons, eventually immigrating to Australia in 1951. She has had seventy or more solo exhibtions around the world and is also a prolific landscape painter, much of it inspired by her annual trips to Alice Springs and Rainbow Valley. Her feeling for colour, for the richness of pigment, and her delight in using charcoal and gouache reveal a revelling in happy moments of creation. Cassab's portriats, to quote Anne Sarzin, are informed by "her rare and intuitive gift of seeing the child in every adult and the future adult in every child."

6. Miles Evergood (1871-1939)

Miles Evergood, born Myer Evergood Blashki, and a member of the well known Melbourne Blashki family, trained under Frederick McCubbin and Hall and in the class that included George Bell, Max Meldrum, George Coates, James Quinn and the Lindsay brothers. In 1898 he sailed to USA, and was successful in San Francisco and New York, marrying Flora Jane Perry in 1900. His art success continued and then in 1901 he moved to England where his son Philip (who became a successful American artist) attended school. Travelling between England, Europe and America, Miles continued his creative work, being exposed to the full range of avant-grade thinking in the world of art. Miles died suddenly in 1939.

7. Cedric Emanuel

Cedric Emanuel (1906-1995) etcher, painter, artist in pen and ink was born in New Zealand and came to Australia in 1908, studying art under Dattilo Rubbo and Julian Ashton. He was one of the most productive and versatile of Australian artists, sketching and painting the rapidly chnaging scens of Australia to the outback to the inner streets of Sydney for almost seventy years. Though he worked and painted overseas, he was particularly fascinated with the city of Sydney, its architecture ad its harbour. His sketches are exceptionally detailed and intricate, exhibiting a variety of techniques. He followed a successful career in commercial art, illustrating over fifty books with sketches in watercolour or ink. His work also was popularised with such items as cards, calendars, wrapping paper and place mats, one set of which, for example, showed intricate pen and ink drawings of the Sydney suburb of Paddington. He won several awards including the national Sesqui Centenary prize for etching, and also was an able sportsman. He died on 28th February 1995, the day before a major display of his works Retrospectives was shown at the Jewish Museum in Darlinghurst.

8. Ruth Faerber

Ruth Faerber (b. 1922) painter, printmaker, teacher and art critic was born in Sydney and trained as a commercial artist from 1938-1940. She studied painting under Desiderius Orban from 1943-1945 at his studio. From 1961 -1967 she undertook further study in printmaking in Sydney and New York and became one of Australia's foremost printmakers. Her work is represented in most of Australia's state galleries and in private collections and galleries in the United States, Israel, West Germany and Switzerland. In the 1987 she was artist in residence at the Bezalel Institute, in Rehov Schmuel HaNagid, in Jerusalem. She has won numerous awards and is included in most books on Australian art.

9. Maximilian Feuerring (1896- 1986)

Maximilian Feuerring arrived in Australia from Europe in 1950 and became a key figure in post war emigre cultural revolution. He was considered to be Australia's leading impressionist painter. A painter in oils, acrylic, water colours and gauche, he was born into an orthodox Jewish family in Lvov, Poland. His studied at the Art School in Berlin (1916), Florence (1922), and Rome, Paris and Warsaw (1923-1927). In 1926 he gained a diploma with distinction at the Municipal School of Decorative Art, Rome. From 1934- 1939 he taught at the Academy of Fine Arts, Warsaw. On the outbreak of World War II, he was called up as an officer in the Polish army and then imprisoned in a prisoner of war camp at Murnau in Upper Bavaria. This period affected him profoundly, for 52 members of his family, including his wife and parents perished in the concentration camps. His life of starvation and hardship in the camp was tempered by art classes which he gave to his fellow officers, with material sent by the Red Cross. After the war, he taught at the Universitas International, Munich from 1947 - 1950, and then emigrated to Australia. He was a very disciplined and committed painter and teacher, conducting an art school from his studios in Bellevue Hill and Woollahra, Sydney. His work is displayed in more than 100 exhibitions world wide. While his paintings are impressionistic and semi-abstract, they reflect a classical artistic education. In Poland he was the leader of the movement, the "New Generation " which reacted against classical and nationalistic concepts in art. On his arrival in Australia he introduced painting that was loaded with symbolism. He used strong colour in his paintings, to reflect a key theme, the search for survival.

10. Sali Herman (1898-1993)

Sali Herman (painter in oils and watercolours) born in Zurich with the surname Yakubowitsch and studied life drawing at the Zurich Technical School (1914-1916) and painting in Paris. His first exhibition was at the Kunsthaus in Zurich in 1918. In 1920 he won a Carnegie study grant for his Portrait of Yetta. In 1923 he began travelling throuhout Europe as an art dealer, only returning to painting when he ariived in Australia in 1937, where he studied under George Bell. His fellow students included Russell Drysdale, Mary Alice Evatt, Maie Casey and Peter Purves Smith. What Tom Roberts, McCubbin, Streeton and others did for Australian art, when they began the Impressionist technique in painting the Australian bush, Herman achieved by his application of the Post-Impressionist technique to his studies of suburbia and derelict country places. Herman was concerned with the creation of painitngs that satisfied his appreciation of texture, solid construction and composition, glowing colour schemes, and occasionally humorous genre. After his war service he was appointed as an official war artist in the enbattled South Pacific. He travelled extensively throughout Australia painting images of mines, country towns and Aboriginal settlements. In 1960 he left the city for Avalon, painting the lush foliage of the peninsula and the myriad bird life that surrounded him. He held numerous solo exhibitions in every city in Australia and also in London and won numerous prizes. A hallmark of his work is his emphasis on character and subject matter, using colour as a means of revealing structure.

11. Louis Kahan (1905-2002)

Louis Kahan, portait painter, graphic artist, etcher, illusrator and stage designer was born in Vienna. His first experience with art was drawing patterns in his father's tailoring shop, while studying at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts on a part time basis. In 1925 he left for Paris, working first as a master tailor, then as a designer for Paul Poiret, and as an illustrator. At the same time he attended life classes at la Grande Chaumiere. He came to Australia in 1947, after spending the last three years of his war service in the French Foreign Legion, as a war artist, and 1946 in Paris working for Le Figaro and also studying print making. When he joined his family Perth in 1947, he worked there till 1950, opening his first solo exhibition, before moving to Melbourne in 1950. From 1954-1958 He worked in London and Paris, painting, designing sets and costumes for the Welsh Opera company, Sadler's Wells and Glyndeburne in collaboration with Oliver Messel, while studying stained-glass painting. He was one of the most versatile and popular Jewish artists in Australia, having painted numerous portraits and contributed to newspapers and literary journals, such as Meanjin Quarterly, and illustrations for books. He also designed sets and costumes for three plays and ten operas. His work is represented in several Australian galleries and in public collections in USA, France, Israel and New Zealand. Stained glass windows which he designed of Creation and Noah's Ark remain as his legacy to the Kew Hebrew Congregation, Melbourne.

12. Desiderius Orban (1884-1986)

Desiderius Orban (painter in oils, acrylic and watercolours and teacher) was born in Gyor, Hungary and arrived in Sydney in 1939. He was educated at the University of Budapest, and was mostly a self taught artist. In 1906, his artist friends introduced him to Gertrude Stein's studio, where he met Matisse, Picasso, and Modigliani. In 1931, his rejection of traditional fine arts teaching methods became the basis of the first school he set up in Hungary, the Atelier Arts and Craft Academy in Bucharest, working there till 1939. In 1943 he established Orban's Studio, Art School, in George Street, Sydney, which later moved to Circular Quay, sustaining a continuing influence over a wide ranging section of students. He maintained that it was not possible to teach a person to paint, but to "guide (ones's) pupil towards knowing himself". In 1946 he served the first of several years as president of the Contemporary Art Society. He also became president of the Australian National Visual Art Committee of UNESCO. In 1967 and 1971 he won the Blake Prize for religious art. Between 1917 and 1975, Desiderius Orban had 60 solo exhibitions in Hungary, Roumania, Czechoslovakia, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Newcastle, Brisbane and Canberra, as well as a Retrospective in 1975 and inclusion in group shows in Australia and overseas. His work is represented in all major state galleries, and throughout Australia, as well as Prague, Tel Aviv, Najorca, Nuremberg, and Budapest. In addition, he wrote three books about art including What is Art all About? He received and OBE at age 90 in 1974, and an honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of New England in 1984.

See The Arts.

13. Jenny Sages (1933 - )

Jenny Sages was born in Shanghai in 1933 to Russian, Jewish parents. She came with her parents to Sydney in 1948 and studied at the East Sydney Technical College and then at the Franklin School of Art in New York. On returning to Australia, she worked as an illustrator and writer of fashion and travel features for such magazines as Vogue. When she was fifty, she made the first of many exploratory expeditions to the Australian inland, was captivaed by it and became a full time artist in 1985. She has been highly commended in the Archibald Art Prize competition seven times, most recently in 2006 for her portrait of artist Hossein Valamanesh. In 2005 she won the Wynne Prize and is represented in the 2012 Wynne competition. She also won the Portia Geach Memorial Award for portraiture in 1992 and 1994. Her work is represented in numerous public and private collections including the Art Gallery of New South Wales and the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra. Her abstract landscapes are suffused with symbolism and her portraits with sensitivity. After being a finalist in the Archibald Prize seven times, she was awarded the Archibald People’s Choice in 1912 with “After Jack”, a self portrait exploring her grief in the wake of her husband’s death.