Fishing Boat in Haifa Port, 1972, gouache on paper
Sailing over the Days
Shemuel (Alexander) Katz
March 11 - May 28, 2006
Curator: Avraham Eilat
The exhibition, for obvious reasons, focuses on Shemuel Katz's works dealing with subjects that are the provenance of a maritime museum. Although these subjects are not central to his works, they return and re-emerge from time to time when the circumstances of his life involve the sea, and events and places connected with it.
As with all his creations, Katz's paintings and drawings of the sea provide first-hand witness, reports by an artist-journalist of events in which he participated or watched at close quarters. Shemuel's first experience connected with the sea was that of a young man of twenty, a refugee from Europe trying, with other survivors, to reach a safe haven, to fulfill his dream. This was prevented by the British Army, which overpowered their ship and interned the refugees in a camp in Cyprus. Shemuel reacted to these dramatic events by employing the talents with which nature has so generously endowed him - the ability to analyze a complex situation and to translate it coherently into dramatic line and colour. In the camp he drew and painted incessantly, and presented these works in what can be considered as his first solo exhibition.
Since that time, the circumstances of his life have often led to other encounters with the sea, with harbours and with ships - travels to distant lands (Iran and Ethiopia), as Israel's official war artist and, the wheel come full circle, accompanying immigrants from Russia aboard the "Yasmin".
All of Shemuel Katz's undertakings receive his characteristic treatment, and this is evident in the present exhibition. The flowing virtuosity of his drawing and the characteristic humour that is evident "between the lines" have always been the dominant features of Katz's style. His "signature" is unmistakeable, unique - strong, flowing, rich, harmonious - a simple and elegant approach to the heart of the matter, with economy and facility. His leanings, since he was very young, towards architecture, and his musical talent (he began learning piano when he was seven) have been evident in his works throughout his artistic career.
He deals with a broad spectrum of subjects, and reacts in his own way to the events of the hour and of the era. He also finds moments for lyric communion with sights that enthrall him. Mankind is always central to his work, and even in views that are basically wonderful constructions, a warm human presence is evident, flowing through them.
Shemuel (Alexander) Katz was born in Vienna (1926). After it was annexed by Germany, he fled with his family to Hungary. In 1944, when the Germans invaded Hungary, he was taken to a concentration camp in Yugoslavia. He escaped to Budapest where he found refuge in the basement of the Swiss Legation until the Red Army arrived. In 1946 he entered Israel as an illegal immigrant, but was expelled by the British and sent to Cyprus, where he remained in an internment camp for several months. In 1947 he was released and returned once more to Israel. In 1948 he was a founding member of Kibbutz Gaaton, where he lives to this day. From 1950 to 1953 he was the artist for the weekly "Mishmar Liladim", and has continued to illustrate children's books since that time. Generations have been reared on his illustrations for Leah Goldberg's "Flat to Let", and many also remember his illustrations for the first "Hasamba" (The Secret Five) books. Since 1956 more than thirty books if his paintings, sketches and cartoons have appeared. He has presented dozens of exhibitions, both in Israel and abroad, and has received international awards for his illustrations and cartoons that have been published over the years.