Born in 1905 in Berlin, Simon started his artistic education there and then continued it with Max Beckmann in Frankfurt. Simon's work also reflects the influence of French painting, particularly that of Lèger, which he absorbed while living in Paris in 1928-36. In 1934 he encountered the murals of Diego Rivera while in New York and was inspired by the free and bold manner in which they expressed socio-political themes. In 1936, Simon moved to Kibbutz Gan Shmuel in Israel where he depicted the pioneering ideology of kibbutz life based on the Marxist Revolution and on Zionism. In 1953, Simon traveled to South America and then settled in Tel Aviv where his work became increasingly abstract.
The large format of the present work shows the artist's fascination with monumental murals inspired by the work of Rivera, a scale which was entirely new in Israeli painting. "Simon sensed the near-religious attitude of pioneering culture toward the value of labor, giving it profound expression in his paintings. The scenes of work in the field thus accentuated virile physicality, while the 'courtyard' scenes focused on the atmosphere of bustle and constant motion in the kibbutz common." (Tali Tamir, Yohanan Simon: Dual Portrait (exhibition catalogue), Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2001, page 283). Simon's recurrent portrayal of the warm intimacy between parents and their children in the Kibbutz can be interpreted as an idyllic reading of kibbutz life or as critique in which he is commenting on a need for familial intimacy that reaches far beyond the two hour daily encounter which the Kibbutz allowed.
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