Baruch Nachshon was born in Haifa, Israel in 1939. He grew up in a religious and Zionist home ideology thatIsrael is the Biblical homeland of the Jewish people). From the age of eleven to eighteen, he studied art with Solomon Neroni, who was Paul Cezanne’s only student. From Neroni, Nachshon learned how to express holiness through his art.
He became attracted to the world of the Chassidim (particular
group of observant Jews, r.e. Index) in his teens. It was not until he was married and had finished the army, that he seriously pursued his art career. Nachshon came to America, and had a meeting with Rabbi Menachem Schneerson. The Rebbe (respectful term given to a rabbinical leader) told him that many generations had passed and the creation of art in aKosher way was not complete. The Rebbe told Nachshon that he would be the one to fix it. The Rebbe awarded him a one year stipend to study art at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Nachshon understood that the Rebbe was
Entrusting him with the exalted mission of bringing art to its supreme fulfillment. Nachshon turned down other scholarships that involved taking courses in sculpting replicas of the human body, and .drawing from nude models.
Since 1967, Nachshon, his wife, and ten children live
near the ancient city of Hebron, in Israel. Nachshon, withsix other courageous families, reestablished a Jewish settlement there called Kiryat Arba, after the Six Day War. He paints symbols of light, life, and scenes from Israel, and fantastical moments in time. Oriental and Western Art are reflected in Nachshon’s style. His work is expressive, delightful, and visionary. Inspired by Biblical, Midrash, and Kabbalistic themes, which have never before been attempted in a visionary mode of expression, his paintings pulsate with joy, harmony, and balance, as he expresses ideals through his work. He uses the art medium and lets the viewer into an enchanted world laden with mystical allegory, particularly using the themes of exile and redemption, as seen in his paintings Sea of Reeds (Crossing the Reed Sea) and Scroll of the End of Days. Dreamy representations of light, redemption, and celebration renders Nachshon’s work accessible and attractive to casual viewers. His visual renditions of profound Torah concepts are personal expressions of a man committed to the heritage of the Jewish people and a love for his people and their land.
Nachshon’s work expresses the soul of ancient and modern Israel. “You should try in the future to bring out the simple meaning of the’text – teachings from our ancestors and real mitzvcs (commandments), so that these
things will be better understood by a larger group,” (advice . given to Nachshon from Rabbi Menachem Schneerson). “He also
the inner dimensions of Judaism and Chassidus, which is based on the Zohar, r.e. index.
Nachshon does enjoy the privacy and seclusion that living in a settlement town away from the big cities in Israel affords him. Yet he still maintains close ties and concerns with the citizens of Israel. He is a visionary who studies the Torah and is able to translate these ideas onto canvas.
2&5 Two questions were addressed here, one concerning
if Biblical prohibitions affected his work, and the other
question about an ethical code being instilled in his work? After speaking with two rabbinic authorities on
the subject of Biblical prohibitions, I was told to avoid using a model, and not to create any art that could serve as idol worship, and also not to make a complete sculpture of a human body. From this I
understood that so called abstract art is alright. All of these prohibitions have led me to find a very
special way of using symbolism, and translating my ideas using images of beasts of all kinds.
Nachshon mentions three biblical prohibitions, that of avoiding using a model (assuming this to be a nude figure), not making any art that could serve as idol worship, and to avoid making a complete sculpture of a human being. “Art
that is used in the form of the huhan body takes the heart of the people toward idol worship.” He followed theseguidelines and developed his unique artistic style. His ethical beliefs are directed by Torah law, that of giving dignity to the human form, and placing the value of art in perspective as objects of beauty with no G-dlike powers.
- On the subject of rabbinical authorities influencing the artist’s work, Nachshon is very unique in this area. As the leader of the Lubavitch movement Rabbi Menachem Schneerson has taken a core interest in Nachshon’s art. Rabbi Schneerson has extensively discussed with Nachshon his work, provided a year’s scholarship for his art studies, and told him that his art ability would fill a void in the Jewish world. Rabbi Schneerson also encouraged him to use his art as a language to bring people closer to their belief system, in the Al-mighty. So the Rebbe gave Nachshon the impetus for his art career, being a key figure in this domain. Such a positive overture to a fine artist was unheard of in the Chassidic community before Nachshon.
- The images that Nachshon excludes in his work are the usage of nudes and the symbol of the cross.
6. When asked about unique distinctions that exist in his work because he is an observant Jew, Nachshon states: “Because I am a practicing Jew, I do my best to increase light, as I see it as the most important reason for our life.” “I have also been influenced by readings of Holy Scriptures, and listening to melodies of the praying in the minyan (group of ten men or more) at Sabbath evening.”
Nachshon studies the Kabbalah, which is the mystical aspects of Judaism. His work flows with illusions of future hope and salvation.
- In response to the question asking whether artistic interpretation of Biblical miracles and events give a distorted view, Nachshon’s response is that:
The Torah is truth, so if the Torah says that G-d has no physical form, it is truth. The only way of expressing Him is giving glory, which affords the artist enormous opportunities of various kinds and
expressions, sometimes by light or by covering light. He believes that G-d does not have a physical form. He
expounds that there is limitless symbolism possible to
express the magnificence of G-d. One of Nachshon’s methods
to reflect on the power of the Al-mighty is by infusing
light and abstraction in his paintings, showing forceful
movements and burning colors.
- When questioned concerning the position physical beauty has in Judaism, Nachshon responds:
Physical beauty has been deemphasized in Judaism,
as King Solomon said that all the honor of a woman is within the house. Art that is used in the form of the human body takes the heart of people toward idol worship. This increases sexual feeling which brings people to flesh desires, which spoil the purity of the mind and bring people away from a healthy society and
far from the Creator. Adam and Eve used to live naked before the famous sin, at that time they were
innocent, afterwards they began to have feelings of sin which brought them to cover themselves. Today, the nakedness in the cultural society (which has the knowledge of bad and evil) use it to cover themselves. This world will not change until the time of Gan-Eden.
The real beauty of the human shape, is not only his flesh. It is also his/her inner machinery, brain, heart, etc., and his/her inner dimensions, mind, feelings, and all the systems which shows the extraordinary wisdom of the one who created all of this wonderful creature.
Nachshon mentions that physical beauty in its raw form takes people towards physical desires, and away from a healthy society, and a belief in G-d. In his opinion beauty needs to be meshed with all the multi-facets of a human being to be fully realized.
9/10. Nachshon simultaneously responds to these questions when asked what the viewer is supposed to be gaining from his art work, and if the intent of his art is to add to the quality of the viewer’s life?
While making art I really don’t think about my
viewer, I see my visions lifting the soul of all kinds of people, Jews and Gentiles. I understand that the Torah being my guide brings inner dimensions and a lot
of light and mood elevation. I’m grateful to G-d that
he gave me such a gift to be close to Him and bring people to this same feeling. I am making genuine art,
in a manner consistent with the Jewish tradition of holiness.
Nachshon wants to add to his viewers’ lives by uplifting their spirits with the imagery of his paintings. The researcher finds Nachshon’s work to be fun, fantastical, vibrant, and happy which is expressed in his painting Hebron, City of the Patriarchs. He speaks of music as being a key inspiration for him, and the viewer can pick up the energy, rhythm, and movement in his work as his art sings with energy. Bringing people his artwork at the Rebbe’s advice is what Nachshon considers to be his mission in life. He feels that his art is holy, because he draws his source of inspiration from the Torah. His paintings express the yearning of one who views himself as fulfilling a mission, of bringing the light of Torah and its commandments into the world of art. The task Nachshon has set for himself is to represent the future, the Messianic Age.
After consulting with rabbis on the topic of Biblical prohibitions, Nachshon was told to avoid using a model, not to make any art that could serve as idol worship, and not to make a complete sculpture of a human body. These prohibitions directed him to develop an innovative technique-in his use of symbols.
His ethical beliefs are directed by Torah law. In his paintings he gives dignity to the human form by excluding nudes. The real beauty of the human shape to Nachshon goes beyond the flesh to the person’s inner dimensions. Art are objects of beauty Nachshon explained, but they are just that, objects with no G-d-like powers.
Remarkably, Nachshon is the only known observant artist that has been financially aided by a rabbi to pursue his career in the fine arts. Rabbi Menachem Schneerson saw in Nachshon’s talent his ability to impact the Jewish world, and help to fill the existing void of Torah expression on a visual level.
Nachshon relates that the Torah describes G-d as having no form. He explains that there is enormous symbolism possible in the expression of G-d’s magnificence and glory in the fine arts, without attributing a physical image to G-d.
He projects that he wants his visions to lift the souls of both Jews and Gentiles, and bring people closer to their belief in G-d. The Torah acts as his guide and brings out the inner dimensions, light, and mood elevation, that is his perception of the beautiful.