JERUSALEM (AFP).- Israeli sculptor and painter Menashe Kadishman, renowned for his colourful works depicting his favourite animal, sheep, has died aged 82, public radio reported on Saturday.
Local media said that Kadishman, who enjoyed a brief but successful international career, passed away in Tel Hashomer hospital, near Tel Aviv, but did not give the circumstances.
Kadishman's website says he was born in Tel Aviv in 1932, under British mandatory rule, and after studying art in Israel he moved to London to train at the St. Martin's and Slade schools of art.
He remained in London for another 12 years, where he married and his children were born, Haaretz newspaper said.
"His early work was characterised by a modernistic style. In the 1960s he was close to artists such as Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Christo, and enjoyed a flourishing international career," the paper wrote.
His friend and fellow sculptor Micha Ullman said that Kadishman was feted wherever he went but returned in 1972 to his Israeli roots.
"I met him in London in 1965 and he was already the village elder of the Israeli artists in London," he told public radio.
"Afterwards he became known in the United States, recognised by museums, with extraordinary success, and despite everything he returned to Israel."
"He returned to the sheep, the trees, the donkeys, to the country itself," he added.
As a youth Kadishman spent time as a shepherd on a kibbutz -- one of the collective farms set up by early pioneers -- in northern Israel and sheep became a central motif of his life's work.
They appeared in many forms, such as the ram sacrificed by Abraham in the bible in place of his son or as lambs to the slaughter, with echos of the Holocaust.
Representing his country at the 1978 Venice Biennale he turned the Israeli display into a sheep pen, complete with a flock of live animals whose backs he painted with blue spots, Haaretz wrote.
Kadishman also served as shepherd.
"The sheep are a part of me," it quoted him as saying. "I feel like every (image of) sheep hanging at home is like an icon of Saint Mary hanging in a Christian home."
He won first prize for sculpture at the 1967 Fifth Paris Biennale, his website says, and his works were exhibited widely across Europe and North America as well as Israel.
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