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Portrait of an Israeli – As an Artist

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Portrait of an Israeli – As an Artist
By Arlene Becker
October 22, 1982

Elisha Ben-Yitzhak, one of the most popular and effective Israeli Emissaries that Milwaukee has ever had, returned to his home in Israel this past June. He left behind many important legacies for Milwaukee Jewry. In recognition of his efforts with the youth, an award in his name has been set up honoring students that have achieved outstanding service on the college campus for the State of Israel, through the Hillel House and presented at their annual dinner.

But Ben-Yitzhak was also Ben-Yitzhak the artist! Though his duties as an Emissary left him extremely busy day and evenings, Ben-Yitzhak still found time to sketch and paint. He often would paint in a corner of the dining room in the family’s apartment. His completed works were exhibited both here in Milwaukee and Chicago while he was here. Ben-Yitzhak has had numerous one-man exhibitions and his work is widely acclaimed. Thus one of the most important legacies that Ben-Yitzhak has left us with is a very tangible one.

Taking a cue from Modigliani and El Greco, Ben-Yitzhak’s forms are exaggerated in the direction of elongation. Form plays a strong part in the artist’s expressions. Music plays another strong part. At least ten of the artist’s pieces are renderings of musical instruments, with the majority leaning to depictions of stringed instruments. Rhythm ranges throughout his other pieces also.

Ben-Yitzhak paints with a light and airy hand. His works are almost sketches on canvas. Fluidity of motion gives the pieces a vibrancy and buoyancy that makes them arresting to the eye. Ben-Yitzhak’s palate of colors is uniquely striking, with unusual and strong color combinations.

Five of his pictures, (done in black acrylic on white canvas), were done since his return to Israel. One depicts Acre, an Israeli city, as a tight cluster of buildings. Another, “In the Galilee”, shows a rocky and hilly visage with overtones of war. The others include an unusual view of Jerusalem, Kibbutz KFar Blum, an interpretation of the kibbutz Ben-Yitzhak grew up on, and “On the Lake of Galilee”, showing two sailboats in the foreground.

Ben-Yitzhak’s character seems to peer through his works. Though outwardly he has presented a gregarious face to the community, his “Introspection”, a view of a figure with his head bowed; “Glass of Tears”; and “Tears”, give a glimpse of a more serious, somber and thoughtful artist. It is a show worth seeing!

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