Auction 172 Part 1 Israeli & International Art
Jan 26, 2019 (Your local time)
 Kikar de Shalit, Herzeliya Pituah
The auction has ended

LOT 36:

Nachum Gutman
1898 - 1980

Sold for: $46,000
Estimated price:
$ 35,000 - $50,000
Auction house commission: 18%
VAT: On commission only

1898 - 1980
Abraham and the three Angels, Oil on canvas, 81X60 cm. Signed. The choice of the approximate date 1970 is based on the special structure of the painting - reverberating the composition of a mosaic Gutman created in 1966 in memory of the Herzlia Gymnasium. The meaning by a mosaic is to the different sized colored rectangles interweaving together, kind of like multiple paintings within one big painting. The subject of the angels’ visit, on which they give promise of the birth of the son (the Israelite version to the myth of the Gospel) has often been dealt with in Israeli art due to its national context and is known in particular in Aharon Kahana’s paintings from the 1950s. By the time Guttmann started dealing with this subject he became obligated to, and already is in his seventies, it was after many years of artistic experience. That experience included his friendly and cheerful temperament and his tendency to “decorate”, which was intensified during the last few decades of his life. Now, he even dared to ”sin” with the fusion of abstraction and figurativism. In Genesis 18:1, the text tells us that Abraham, living in Elonei Mamre near Hebron, is ”sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.” There is the place ”three men” arrive and are later invited in by Abraham: ”Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.” According to ancient folk tradition this tree was an oak, one of those holy oaks known in the Middle East. The story of the oak of Abraham first appeares in the book Antiquities of the Jews by Yosef ben Matityahu (Flavius Josephus), who wrote: ”Now Abraham dwelt near the oak called Ogyges and was uneasy at his wife’s barrenness...”. The same Ogyges, said ben Matityahu, was an enormous oak, under which Abraham hosted the three angels. It was later on, in the Middle Ages, that the pilgrim Petachiah of Regensburg said that an enormous olive tree was the tree of Elonei Mamre, and even later than that - pilgrims that said it was actually a Tamarisk tree. However, it is very difficult to identify an almost desert like view and extremely hot temperature in this painting. But it is very easy to identify the monumental role that Guttmann assigned to the holy oak tree, under which appear the white and enigmatic angels (like three containers somewhat echoing Kahana’s figures). In front of them stands Abraham (wearing a cloak and a yarmulke) standing next to the refreshments on the carpet. Small people under a big tree - this is a familiar combination to us since the drawing of Palmachniks Resting Under a Tree, 1948. Look carefully at this tree: see the abundance of its blossom, the birds flying above it, celebrating on its branches. This huge, blooming, heartwarming tree insures the future of the promised son and the future of the entire Jewish people. Add the left rectangle with the plentiful pomegranate and the two rectangles with the tiny figures, raising their arms to the heavens (in a prayer to give thanks to God?) - and don’t forget about the pleasant shades of pink and light-blue - and there you have it: another joyful painting by Nachum Gutman. Another chapter in a Mediterranean celebration combined with the joy of the divine promise to increase the seed of old Abraham. If it had not been for that visit, we would not be having this auction… Gideon Ofrat