Lot 17
  • 17

REUVEN RUBIN | Arab Woman with a Potted Plant

150,000 - 200,000 USD
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  • Reuven Rubin
  • Arab Woman with a Potted Plant
  • signed Rubin (lower center)
  • oil on canvas
  • 23 5/8 by 19 3/4 in.
  • 60 by 50 cm
  • Painted 1923.


Estate of the Artist


Haifa Museum of Modern Art, Reuven Rubin, The Portrait in his Work in Retrospective, February - March 1986, no. 6 (listed as Arab Woman, 1922)
Milano, Palazzo Reale, Israele Arte e Vita, 1906-2006, October 2006 - June 2007, illustrated in the exhibition catalog p. 101, detail illustrated on cover  

Catalogue Note

"It seems that what Gauguin was looking for in Tahiti, Rubin found in Palestine. In the process of acclimating to the local environment, he watched his Arab neighbours with eager fascination and when he first painted Arab villagers, it was because he was attracted to their simple ways and their organic, earthy lifestyle. Only years later did his lyrical, more romantic style evolve and his figures became more archaic and less rooted in reality." (Carmela Rubin, Home Visit, 1998) Rubin's naive, Primitivist style of the 1920s, combines influences from Byzantine art and the modernist styles of Paul Gauguin and Henri Rousseau. "The Primitivist point of view also served local artists due to its compatibility with the same historical perspective that characterizes Jewish culture and religion, and according to which the East is the origin of sacredness. This point of view was also congruous with the Zionist ethos of the time, which viewed immigration to the land of Israel as a form of rebirth." (Carmela Rubin, Dreamland, 2006, p. 235)

Having studied the Old Masters in the Academy in Bucharest, Rubin drew freely on the poses of angels and Madonnas found in Byzantine art in several of his early portraits. Here the woman's gently tilted head is draped in a black head covering, like Mary in her blue mantle. The sun-drenched hill behind her, highlights her silhouette in bright contrast, like a halo. Placed outdoors, holding a potted plant, the woman is at one with the land. The land and the people's connection to it is a theme the artist returned to throughout his career, but especially in these early years, when he and his contemporaries painted the Arab residents as a romantic symbol for the ideal life in harmony with nature.

The potted plant can hold an additional connotation, an emblem for hope - hope in the growth of the pioneering society in Eretz Israel, the hope of this young immigrant artist, with a budding life in the Land of Israel. The small plant, itself a new life, symbolizes a new beginning.

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Carmela Rubin of the Rubin Museum Foundation.