Painter Menachem Shemi (1897-1951) was one of the pioneers of Israeli painting and art. The exhibition titled "Menachem Shemi Man and Artist" which opens at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art
September 11, 2009 follows a very long interval since his only lifetime one-man exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum in 1946, and a second, planned for 1950, which upon his sudden death became a commemorative exhibition (1952).
Menachem Shemi (Schmidt) was born in Bobruisk, White Russia, and emigrated to Palestine to study at the Bezalel School of Art in Jerusalem in 1913. His purpose was mainly to explore Oriental culture and he soon sprung deep emotional roots in his new homeland. After seven years of poverty and wanderings he settled in Tiberias in 1920 and began life as a painter and teacher. In 1922 he moved to Haifa. During the 2nd World War he served in the British Army (1942-1945) being posted in Egypt, Libya and Italy finding time to continue painting even when in uniform. In 1947 Shemi began painting in Safed, the mountaintop town located in Israel's Upper Galilee where he settled in 1948. It was in Safed that Shemi reached the summit of his creativity in a process that involved heart-breaking grief due to the fall in battle of his son Aharon-Jimmy towards the end of Israel's War of Independence in 1948.
Menachem Shemi was an important painter, who attained a central status in the art world in Israel. From the 1920s to the early 1950s, and even posthumously he was recognised as a great colourist; the intensity of his colours raising his painting to international levels. The colourfulness of his painting surely derived from the appearance of nature, but at the same time it attained a life of its own, creating an autonomous musical flow that directly affects the senses and contains the seeds of abstraction. In this manner Shemi released Israeli painting from its very close dependence on the visible, aiming to broaden and deepen the viewers emotional experience.
Daliah Belkine, the exhibition's curator, is the author of the book "Menachem Shemi Man and Artist" which will be published the day the exhibition opens: September 11. On that day too a website will be launched dedicated to Menchem Shemi's heritage in the form of a catalogue raisonné (www.menachemshemi.org