You are not likely to see Jerusalem if you are a holder of an Iranian passport, as an order on its last page prohibits any travel to the “occupied Palestine.” How about trying the Ben Uri Gallery in London and see its latest exhibition, “The Land of Light and Promise”.
Jerusalem is at the heart of the show that displays works by the 20th century painter, Ludwig Blum. Fifteen paintings are dedicated to depicting the city, showing views from nearby mountains and images from within the walls. Paintings range from 1920s through to the 1960s.
Tel Aviv under Construction, 1925 Private collection
Blum’s other 22 works in the exhibition vary in subject. Some show Israel as a nation being built, from its Kibbutz communities to Tel Aviv under construction and copper mines in Timna. There are watercolour and pencil paintings of Tehran and Mosul from 1930.
“Camels in the Judean Desert,” an oil on canvas painting from 1943, is a masterful work in light and shade. The limited space doesn’t do the 80 by 130 centimetres piece justice.
“In his style and themes, Blum operated outside modern art movements,” says Dalia Manor, curator of the exhibition. That choice “gained him the admiration of the general public more than that of the art establishment and his critics.”
Jerusalem, inside the Walls Looking East, 1926 Stern family collection
“It was his picture of the Holy Land that made his name and linked him to the tradition of Orientalist painting,” writes Manor, who is the director of the Negev Museum of Art, in the exhibition catalogue.
Blum, whose style is said to share traits with those of John Singer Sargent and David Bomberg, moved to Palestine in 1923. In a plaque on his native house in the Czech city of Brno, Blum is commemorated as the “Painter of Jerusalem”. He exhibited his works in London in 1933 and 1938. He died in 1974 and is buried in Jerusalem.
The Land of Light and Promise, until 24 April 2011
Ben Uri Gallery, The London Jewish Museum of Art 108A Boundary Road, St John’s Wood, London NW8 0RH, Tel: 02076043991
euronews correspondent in London