Auction 168 Part 1 Israeli & International Art
Jan 20, 2018 (Your local time)
 Kikar de Shalit, Herzeliya Pituah
The auction has ended

LOT 38:

Nachum Gutman
1898 - 1980

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Sold for: $85,000
Start price:
$ 75,000
Estimated price:
$100,000 - $150,000
Auction house commission: 15%
VAT: On commission only

1898 - 1980
Eating Watermelon, ca. 1960,
Oil on canvas, 65X100 cm.

The authenticity of the painting has been confirmed by Prof. Hemi
Gutman, the artist’s son.

Provenance: Estate of Janet Tocatly (Jaglom).

Jaffa has never looked like this and these have never been her colors. Surely not in the mid 1960’s, the same time Gutman painted the Jaffa vegetable vendor sitting by his donkey eating a juicy watermelon. He was very keen on this subject that he painted it in an earlier oil version (from 1960), in gouache even earlier than 1957 and even modelled it out of clay later (1968).
At the same period, circa 1960, Jaffa is in ruins, its neighborhoods harboring crime and prostitution (and the beginning of the Israeli entertainment and club area). Truthfully, even in the mid 1920’s Jaffa did resemble its depictions on the canvases. Because, since then and till his death (1980), Gutman invented a Jaffa of fantasy, erotic (in the midst of its fields a nude Arab woman), uplifted (its peasants similar to goddesses), colorful Jaffa (its colorful horses with carriages carrying veiled women), a legendary Jaffa etc.
Now, circa 1960, the artist is in his 60’s, he lingers and yearns for a Jaffa from paradise, of joy in content and form, of juicy sweetness (the watermelon) and round friendly Arabs. We are not surprised then to discover that Gutman sourced his Arab figure from a photo by Micha Bar-Am that was published on the cover of a journal and represented a… an old Bedouin sitting somewhere in the desert and eating a watermelon.
Gutman, who received permission from the photographer, took the central image, but redesigned it and transformed the Bedouin from the Negev to a vendor from Jaffa. This painting focuses on the center of the earlier painting from 1960, which was long and horizontal (52.5x158.5 cm): Gutman now chooses to paint only the watermelon eater and his donkey (and a couple of watermelons), leaving out most of the boxes and vegetables that appeared on both sides of the Arab figure.
At this point of Gutman’s work, he is an optimstic Fauvist, a colorful colorist, using pinks, blues, greens and reds to create a painting, promoting that Mediterranean ’joie de vivre’ the artist yearned for all his life. A more Gutman painting than this, you will not find.
(Translated and adapted from Gidon Ofrat).

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