Modernt & samtida
To be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale: Modern & Contemporary 18 – 20 May 2022
Lot 319 Yohanan Simon (Israel 1905‑1976). ”In the Kibbutz Courtyard”. Signed in Hebrew and dated 54 lower left. Oil on canvas, 135 x 96 cm.
600.000 – 800.000 SEK
€ 58.000 – 77.000
The collection of the artist.
The collection of the artist’s wife fashion designer Adolfina Finy Leitersdorf (1906‑1986).
Thence by descent to the present owner.
Tali Tamir, Yohanan Simon: Dual Portrait, 2001, compare to the painting “In the Kibbutz Courtyard”, no. 41, p. 211.
Yohanan Simon was born into a Jewish family in Berlin in the year of 1905. He was first aiming for a career in medicine, spending two semesters at the University of Berlin in 1924 but eventually decided to follow his heart and started his artistic studies at the Faculty of Art. At first, he was studying sculpture under Professor Kurt Kluga but the practice of sculpture did not really attract him, why Simon instead decided to enroll at the Städelschule in Frankfurt and the Art Academy of Munich. He studied together with, among others, the German Expressionist artist Max Beckmann whom he befriended. Very soon the talents of Simon were noticed. In 1928 he was awarded a scholarship by the Jewish community in Berlin, which enabled him to continue his studies in France. He settled down in the heart of the growing modernism in Paris, enrolling at the École des Beaux-Arts before he moved to the port town of Toulon in southern France. In Toulon Simon found a dear friend in the artist André Derain, one of the founding members of the Fauvist movement, who deeply influenced his way of approaching the colours. 1931 was the year of his first solo-exhibition in Toulon and later on during the same year he decided to return to Paris. In the French capital Simon combined further art studies at the École des Beaux-Arts, participating at the foremost exhibitions at the Salon d‘Automne and the Salon des Tuileries, while he at the same time also was working as a graphic designer for the French magazines Vu and Les Annales.
In 1934 Yohanan Simon’s highly appreciated stylistic skills sent him across the Atlantic Ocean to New York to work for the magazine Vogue for a year. While working for Vogue, he also met the artist Diego Rivera and participated in the execution of Rivera’s revolutionary monumental fresco painting “At the Crossroads” at the Rockefeller Center. After the year in New York Simon first returned to Paris but shortly after decided to immigrate to Palestine in 1936. He became a member of the Kibbutz Gan Shmuel where he worked as a manual laborer and was allowed to paint during one day per week. He was active in the Haganah and participated in the War of Liberation during the War of Independence, where he became an important front figure for the Jewish people. Being recruited as a member of the camouflage department of the Palmach, he was also one of the founding artists of the New Horizons Group. The years in the kibbutz highly influenced Yohanan Simon’s artistry and in the everyday life of the community he found the subjects of his paintings. These early works, often described as a sort of Social Realism, create an intriguing invitation to the scenes of the utopian life in the kibbutz.
For nearly fifteen years Yohanan Simon lived in the kibbutz. He participated in the first exhibition of the New Horizons group, which was held at the Tel Aviv Museum in 1949, being followed by several other exhibitions. However, in 1953 Simon decided to leave the kibbutz and settled down in Tel Aviv where he opened his own studio. The Israeli artist, architect and theorist Marcel Janco invited Simon to join the Ein Hod, an artist’s village at the foot of Mount Carmel which also led him to further travels in South America and the United States which was of great importance for his future artistic development. These later works are characterized by a more abstract and wildly colourful style, inspired by his travels to primarily South America.
Today, Yohanan Simon counts among the most important interpreters of the everyday life of the Jewish people and its heartfelt community. Simon’s paintings created in the 1940s and 1950s, as the painting included in this sale, belongs to the foremost of the artist. Works from this period are rarely offered at auctions. “In the Kibbutz Courtyard” offers a rare opportunity to acquire a true masterpiece by the artist. With Simon’s refined sense of colour and form, this attractive composition shows a combination of many scenes in the kibbutz. Central is the heartfelt loving care for the grand family and its members, captured in the beautiful surroundings of the Israeli landscape, a vivid scenery that flourishes of life, music, warmth, care and attention for one another. In the foreground, a child reaches for his mother’s care while a little boy is playing with a pinwheel at the same time as a girl is playing the flute. The harmonic tones blend with the youth’s ongoing basket play and a little toddler in his crib, being watched by another child and his mother that is resting comfortably on the protective net that covers the crib. And above all, the father that raises his child high above himself into the air. An impressive expression and appreciation of life itself. ■