Artist biography

Israeli painter, draughtsman, printmaker and writer, of Romanian birth, active in France. The drawings he made in deportation from Nazi labour camps at the age of 13 and 14 saved his life by attracting attention to his precocious talent. In 1944 he emigrated to Israel, living in a kibbutz near Jerusalem and studying art at the Bezalel School in Jerusalem; after being severely wounded in 1948 in the Israeli War of Independence, he continued his studies in Paris. He first made his name as an illustrator. From 1957 to 1965 he produced abstract paintings which had something in common with Art Informel but were characterised by his particular sensitivity of touch and sumptuousness of colour. During this period he also designed stained-glass windows.

Arikha stopped painting in 1965, feeling that it was impossible to continue in the same vein, and he restricted himself first to drawing and then to etching in black and white. He resumed painting in 1973, this time working exclusively from life, painting quickly in oil on canvas on an intimate scale well suited to his generally domestic subjects.

Wary of his own virtuosity and always receptive to the shocks of emotion and chance, Arikha practised a kind of dynamic realism. Arikha's paintings from life after 1973, calm and endowed with a feeling of plenitude arising from his mastery of colour and amplitude of gesture, also have a muted drama because of the vibration of the marks, tonal contrasts and spatial ambiguities, which together assure the modernity of his work within a long tradition.

Avigdor Arikha: Dessins, 1965–1970 (exh. cat., preface S. Beckett, essay B. Rose; Paris, Cent. N. A. Contemp., 1970)
S. Beckett and others: Arikha (Paris and London, 1985)

Copyright material reproduced courtesy of Oxford University Press, New York

Article provided by Grove Art Online