Rubin Masterpiece Returns to Israel Museum

The Israel Museum announced today that it has re-acquired the painting The Sea of Galilee, 1926-1928, by Reuven Rubin, one of Israel’s early modern masters. The Sea of Galilee has returned to the Israel Museum after nearly two decades and is on view through September 20, 2003, in the current presentation Views II. The exhibition reveals the different perspectives from which early modern and contemporary Israeli artists view the local landscape, for which the painting is a timely addition.

The Sea of Galilee disappeared in Israel in 1982, during its return transit to the Israel Museum from an exhibition in New York. Under the terms of U.S. Government Indemnity, which provided indemnity for the loan of the work in lieu of commercial insurance, the U.S. Government compensated the Israel Museum for its full insurance value. In 1987 the painting mysteriously reappeared in a Tel Aviv flea market and was subsequently subject to an ownership suit, which was resolved in Israel’s Supreme Court earlier this year, in a ruling in favor of the U.S. Government. By the terms of U.S. Indemnity, the Israel Museum was given the opportunity to re-purchase the painting for the insurance amount paid at the time of its loss. The re-acquisition of The Sea of Galilee has been made possible through an anonymous gift to the Museum. It is now on display alongside Rubin’s 1923 Self-Portrait, which was acquired by the Museum in 1984 with the original compensation received after the painting’s loss.

“We are delighted to be able to restore The Sea of Galilee to our collection after its near twenty-year absence,” remarks James Snyder, director of the Israel Museum. “It is an exceptional masterpiece, highlighting Rubin’s achievement in capturing the aura of the landscape of the land of Israel and in a distinctive modernist vocabulary which was so important to the development of the language of 20th century Israeli art. The restoration of its ownership is a story of art loss, but with a happy ending, and we are deeply grateful.”

The Sea of Galilee is one of Rubin’s early renditions of the northern city of Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee, with the mountains of the Galilee and the Golan Heights towering in the background. The style and subject of the work are representative of Rubin’s style in the 1920s. It juxtaposes the old with the new, emphasizing the dialectic of East and West in the local scenery and reflecting the developing landscape of the Land of Israel during the early Jewish settlement of pre-State of Israel Palestine. New houses of the colony and the agricultural settlement are set against the black basalt houses of the Old City of Tiberias, which is surrounded by the city’s basalt wall reconstructed by the Ottomans. Camels trail along the foreground, flanked by electricity wires and water pipes, hinting at the technology that was rapidly changing the landscape.

Views II is the second exhibition in a series dedicated to the Israeli landscape, featuring paintings that reflect different ways of looking at the local landscape and various styles in Israeli art – the “Bezalel” period of the early 20th century, the affinity for the East of the 1920s, the lyrical abstraction of the 1950s, conceptual art of the 1970s, and finally younger contemporary art of today. The exhibition has been curated by Amitai Mendelsohn, associate curator of the David Orgler Department of Israeli Art, and is on view through September 20, 2003.

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Published in: on August 7, 2003 at 2:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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