Although he was born in Romania and spent some years there as an adult; and although he was largely trained in Paris, Reuven Rubin (born Zelicovici, 1893-1974) is considered very much an Israeli artist.
Not only was Rubin represented in Jerusalem’s first art exhibition, he was also the first to have a one-man show at the newly opened Tel Aviv Museum. Known for his landscapes of Israel and Palestine and for admiring depictions of the working class (in a style many find informed by Rousseau and Cezanne), Rubin also designed scenery for Israel’s national theater and his stained glass windows adorn the Jerusalem residence of the president of Israel. He was the first Israeli ambassador to Romania, had two career retrospectives about 10 years apart at the Tel Aviv Museum and was awarded the Israel Prize in 1973.
But Rubin wasn’t famous just in Israel. He enjoyed international acclaim in his own lifetime, with solo shows in London and Paris, and an exhibition at the 1952 Venice Biennale. As early as 1921, an exhibition of his (and Arthur Kolnik) was sponsored by Alfred Stieglitz in New York, about which a critic wrote that his “canvasses glow with a strange mysticism.” Rubin’s fame allowed him to travel in circles that included Jascha Haifetz, Leonard Bernstein, Ira Gershwin and Isaac Stern.
This fascinating and talented man died in 1974 in Tel Aviv, where you can visit his home, and see his “mystical” canvasses in progress. The last drawing on the day he died was of an angel, who resembled himself, looking wistfully down from a fluffy cloud.
Interesting fact: He often signed his first name in Hebrew and his surname in Roman letters.