Bezalel Schatz Biography

Bezalel Schatz




Painter, sculptor, muralist, and printmaker Bezalel "Lilik" Schatz was born on March 14, 1912, in Jerusalem, Israel. His father, Lithuanian Jewish artist and sculptor Boris Schats, was the founder of the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts (now the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design) and his mother, Olga, was an art critic; as such, art was always a part of Schatz's life. Though he excelled in other subjects he was primarily drawn to visual art and by age 14 completed his studies at his father's school and held his first exhibition, coinciding with his Bar Mitzvah.

In 1930 Schatz and other graduates of the Bezalel School embarked on a multi-month tour of the US with Boris in order to raise funds for the Bezalel School, which had to close its doors after suffering the woes of the global economic depression. In March of 1932, Boris died as they toured Colorado and Schatz continued the tour to raise money for the return of his father's body to Jerusalem. In the end his efforts and those of his father were rewarded: the school reopened and, in September of 1932, Boris Schatz's body was returned to his home.

Exhausted from the tour and the loss of his father, Schatz did not return to Jerusalem but instead traveled to France, enrolling in courses at the Grand Chaumiere Academy. There, he found himself at the heart of the moderist movement, a genre his father had staunchly rejected. Shedding years of conservative views on methods and styles, Schatz immersed himself in the Parisian art world for five years, developing a disctintive style that borrowed from German expressionism, minimalims, and abstraction.

As anti-Semitism grew in Europe, Schatz left once more for the U.S., settling in California where he worked in a shipyard. While there he met his future wife, Canadian-born artist and designer Louise McClure, and befriended luminaries of modern American culture Henry Miller, with whom he would collaborate on the book Into the Night Life in 1947, and Man Ray. Schatz remained in the U.S. for over a decade, exhibiting in New Mexico, New York, San Francisco, and elesewhere. After his return to Jerusalem with Louise in 1951 they established the Yad school for arts and crafts with his sister, Zohara, and in 1953 the couple moved into the Ein Hod artist's village.

Along with their mother, Olga, the Schatz children founded a company brokering commissions for murals and other major artworks for Israeli institutions, ships, and hotels. After Olga's passing, Schatz and Louise moved into her apartment, which was situated at the back of the school and had been the place where Schatz grew up. He continued to work and live in Jerusalem until his death in 1978.