Mordecai Ardon images and biography
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Mordecai Ardon


"Mordecai Ardon is considered by many to be Israel's greatest painter. He studied at the Bauhaus (1921-24) under Klee, Kandinsky, Feininger and Itten. The influence of the Bauhaus and especially of Paul Klee on his artistic development was profound and lasted a lifetime. The other great source of inspiration were the Old Masters, especially Rembrandt, and El Greco. After graduating from the Bauhaus he studied the painting techniques of the Old Masters at the Akademie der bildende Kunste in Munich under Max Doerner (1926). The depth and richness of Ardon's colours owe their quality to these techniques. Professor Avraham Ronen, of the Tel Aviv University summed up the particular character of Ardon's colours in the following words: "Ardon's interest in colourism and colour-techniques is inseparable from his artistic credo. While in paintings by other artists each coloured area appears to be meaningful to the observer only when it can be perceived as an integral part of the entire composition; i.e., when it is related to the other adjacent coloured areas, Ardon conceived colour as possessing an absolute aesthetic and spiritual value. He therefore always strove to create the most beautiful colours possible, the deepest blue, the warmest red, the most shining yellow, the most saturated green".

"Modern art of the Bauhaus and the colour technique of the old Masters, are the two, seemingly contradicting, elements that forged the character of Ardon's painting throughout the 70 years of his artistic career. He was a modern, mainly abstract expressionist painter, who used the painting techniques of the old Masters. He extracted these techniques from their figurative context, and used them for the creation of his original contribution to Modern Art.

"Ardon believed in pure art devoid of any political or social message. He believed that a painting should be appreciated and judged solely by its inherent artistic elements, such as colour, composition and their interplay. He rejected literary, symbolic or, indeed, any other additional meaning attributed to a work of art. Yet, although he tried, he could not always overcome his urge to create an artistic expression of his horror of war and injustice. This urge culminated in the eight monumental triptychs which he created between 1955 and 1988, the last 'Hiroshima' was created when he was 92 years old. This anti-war and anti-violence outcry is also found in other paintings, such as Khirbet Khize and Fatal Eclipse. In a letter to Willem Sandberg, the director of the Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam (and later, the first director of the Israel Museum), he acknowledges this inner conflict, which he likens to the historic conflict between Athens and Jerusalem:

(From an Ardon letter to Willem Sandberg, Director of the Stedelijk Museum, dated 15th August 1960)

"…Your discussion was extremely interesting and very revealing …Modern Art is striving towards a summit, not yet reached. This trend of Modern Art will continue - notwithstanding all regressive and grumbling elements. There is no doubt about this!

"But an odd thing happened on my palette: something foreign sneaked into the group of cadmiums, ultramarines and viridiums - it was Jerusalem - ascetic, with a sack over its head.

"What is Jerusalem doing amongst the bright cadmiums? How can one scratch it off the palette? Sometimes it can be scared away and hidden behind the ivory black. But in vain - in the next morning it settles down again in the midst of the cadmiums.

"That is the problem! For thousands of years Jerusalem has been thundering against Athens, against the radiant, the Apollonian, the Dionysian Athens. How I admire Athens! How godlike and bright does a Matisse wander about there. His canvas breathes the sweet fragrance of the Mediterranean - morning fragrance is in the air.

"At such moments Jerusalem stays far, far away, behind the black. But as soon as Matisse has passed -it comes up again among the cadmium the ultramarine and the viridium. One can not get away from it. The alien Jerusalem always gives orders: "Thou shalt", "Thou shalt not", like a black woodpecker Jerusalem keeps knocking on your bark - Thou, Thou, Thou. Thou and the orphan, Thou and the widow, Thou and the distressed, Thou and the oppressed. Never is one left alone! As if life can only be lived in the Thou and as if being alive could only manifest itself in conjunction with the Thou.

"That is the problem. The 'Thou' does not play any part in modern art. Artists are suns revolving on their own axes, surrounded by a wealth of moons with their faces turned towards them…"

Ardon Images

1944 Ein Karem
1955-56 For the Fallen (Triptych)
1956 For the Fallen - Center panel: The House of Cards
1955 For the Fallen - Left-hand panel: The Traps
1956 For the Fallen - Right-hand panel: The Unborn
1959 Testament of a Dead Leaf
1962 Tammuz
1968 To the Morning Star
1978 Last Curtain Call of the Palettes
1984-85 La Grand Poupee
1986-87 La Rosette pour Rikuda

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