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Shalom of Safed Dead

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Sholem Moscovitz, whose primitive paintings of Biblical themes under the name of Shalom of Safed made him world famous, died last Thursday in Safed where he was born some 80 years ago. Funeral services were held last Friday. He began painting at the age of 55 and soon became famous for his “naive” paintings of Biblical stories which always contained a proverb or sentence from the Scriptures. His paintings are considered of major importance to Israeli art history.

Shalom was a Hasid and heir to the rich mystical tradition of the Cabbala that also had its home in Safed. A humble watchmaker, he was discovered in the late 1950s after the destruction of his workshop in Israel’s War of Independence forced him to eke out a living from making plywood cut-out toys. Within a short time, he attained a worldwide reputation.

Shalom’s works have been given one-man exhibits by 14 of the world’s leading museums, such as the Stedelijk of Amsterdam and the Kunsthous of Zurich, and are included in such collections as those of the museums of modem art in New York City and Paris.

His paintings, lithographs and tapestries have been exhibited by prominent galleries in the United States and Europe, and are part of distinguished collections. Most recently, Shalom’s paintings and stained glass windows were on exhibit at the Jewish Museum in New York from May 8 to Oct. 30.

His work was featured in many publications, including Life magazine, Life’s “Israel” volume, and an eight-page color portfolio in Horizon magazine. It was the subject of three films, one for CBS-TV, one for German TV and one for ABC-TV. The latter, comparing Shalom’s work with ancient Jewish art and exploring the creative process of an untaught artist, won numerous awards and was called “an art film classic.” Newsweek magazine devoted a whole page to his work, as did other national and local publications.

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