Lot 11
  • 11

Reuven Rubin

Estimate
400,000 - 600,000 USD
Sold
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Description

  • Reuven Rubin
  • The Road to Meron
  • signed Rubin and dated 924 (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 33 1/2 by 31 3/4 in.
  • 85 by 80.5 cm
  • Painted in 1924.

Provenance

Joseph Stieglitz Gallery, Tel Aviv, 1950s
Thence by descent

Exhibited

Jerusalem, David Citadel; Herzliya, Gymnasium, Solo Exhibition, 1924, no. 12, p. 5
Bucharest, Regina Maria, Expozitia Rubin, November 1924, no. 19, p. V, illustrated in black and white in the exhibition catalogue 
Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Museum, Modern Israel Art in its Beginnings, 1290-1930, May 1957, no. 18
Jerusalem, Israel Museum; Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Rubin, Retrospective Exhibition, May-June 1966, no. 15
Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Dreamland: Reuven Rubin's Encounter with the Land of Israel in His Paintings of the 1920s and 1930s, 2006-2007, no. 69, p. 139, illustrated in color in the exhibition catalogue

Literature

Reuven Rubin, Reuven; An Autobiography and Selected Paintings, Tel Aviv, illustrated p. 66

Catalogue Note

Sotheby’s is honored to offer two exceptional examples of Rubin’s work from the 1920s. (See also lot 29)

Exemplifying Rubin’s celebrated early style, The Road to Meron combines a bright, optimistic palette with a balanced and flattened composition. The Arab village in the distance is as crisp and clear as the stop along the road where Rubin introduces one of his oft-repeated subjects, the milkman.

The character of the milkman, made famous by such tales as Shalom Aleichem’s Tevye The Milkman, is symbolic of Jewish life in Eastern Europe, and so bridges the gap between Rubin’s early years in the Diaspora and his new life in Eretz, Israel. Rubin repeatedly paints this human embodiment of the lush fertility of the land of Israel throughout the 1920s. In this example, the Hassidic milkman’s piercing blue eyes, broad shoulders and strong arms unite to give him both an air of spiritual transcendence and the hearty, earthbound strength of the new Jewish pioneers.

Rubin, a secular Israeli artist, recently immigrated from Europe, romantically portrays the pluralistic society of his new home. The road to Meron is populated by both the Hassidic pilgrim riding on a donkey, likely traveling to Meron to commemorate Lag Ba’Omer at the tomb of Shimon Bar-Yohai, and the Arab mother riding with babe in arms. These figures are later visually repeated in one of Rubin’s best known paintings from this period, The Dancers of Meron, 1926, from the Rubin Museum collection. In the later work, the Arab woman is replaced by a religious Jewish mother but in both works, the woman cradles a baby at her breast and is wrapped in a pale pink scarf. This repeated visual theme connects the two paintings, almost like a sequence of events - on the road to the celebration, and the celebration itself. The sensitive portrayal of these varied figures speaks to the artist’s vision of harmony in his new land.

This painting is a preeminent example of Rubin’s seamless integration of figures and landscape. The rolling Galilean hills, strewn with olive trees, envelope the characters in their folds, as they travel along their winding path. In both a gentle embrace of his new home, and an infusion of symbolism, Rubin lovingly paints charming details into this idyllic pilgrimage scene: a western umbrella to protect from the persistent Mediterranean sun, the milk-producing goat stealing a bite from a carob tree. “According to legend, a Carob tree nourished Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yohai while he and his son Eliezer hid from the Romans in a cave, where he wrote the Book of Zohar.” (Carmela Rubin, Dreamland: Reuven Rubin and His Encounter with the Land of Israel in His Paintings of the 1920s and the 1930s, exhibition catalogue, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2006, p. 217)

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