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Natan Spigel: Jewish Painter

Natan Spigel was born in an orthodox Jewish family in Lodz, now in Poland.   He started his training as an artist in Lodz and in 1920 was given the opportunity, through sponsorship to travel to Rome where, (as a student of Henryk Glicenstein) he was able to continue his studies at the German Academy.

After completing studies in Rome, Natan Spigel travelled to Paris, arriving there via Dresden and Berlin. His first major success in Paris was to be invited to show in the 1924 Salon d’Autumn, although his first public exhibition was in Lodz in 1921. He continued to love Paris and he visited again in 1929.

Between 1929 and 1931 he also visited Venice and London, where his brother had lived since before the First World War. He was invited to exhibit in London at the Ben Uri Gallery (1930) and also, in London, together with Jacob Epstein. In Poland he regularly exhibited in Lodz, Cracow and also in Warsaw (1921, 1928 & 1937). He last visited London in 1936 and could not be persuaded to stay.

He was committed to his Jewish roots. He said that ‘I am a Jewish painter before everything, all that I do is moved by that idea.’

His paintings were often watercolours painted onto cardboard, although he also worked in oils. His subjects ranged from portraits, through still-life to scenes from Jewish life in Poland. A particularly distinctive feature of some of his watercolours is his use of varnish to give age and contrast to his scenes.

In contrast to many of those of his generation who travelled to Paris just before and after the 1st World War, his work does not belong to what we know as ‘the Paris School’, (Chaim Soutine, Marc Chagall, Chaim Epstein,); he preferred to stay attached to his roots in Eastern Europe. He was a key member of the influential, Expressionist group, Jung Idysz, a group of artists, as well as ‘Start’, also founded by a group of mainly Jewish Lodz artists, they  exhibited across Poland,  in the 20’s and 30’s.

After the German invasion of Poland he was interned in the Radomsko ghetto together with his family. He continued to paint and took part in the work of artists. He perished in Treblinka in 1942.

Natan Spigel’s work had already started to become recognised before the 2nd World War. His work was already to be found in collections in London, Poland and Israel in the 1930’s. 

The post-Holocaust world had seen the almost complete destruction of all that was created by the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe, and it has been only slowly that the extent of the inspired creative force of that world has begun to be given a renewed life and be seen in it’s rightful place in the cultural history of the Jewish world of the 20th century, as well as the development of the imagination in modern Europe.

The first major post-Shoah exhibition to start this work of reconstruction was that held at The Tel Aviv Museum (Helena Rubenstein Pavilion) in April 1968.  This exhibition ‘Memorial Exhibition of Jewish Artists who perished in the Holocaust’ allowed that generation to speak again. Since then other works have found there way into collections in Israel, London and Russia.  Over the last 10 years a small number of works have also begun to appear at auctions and Natan Spigel’s place amongst that unique force of artistic imagination in all its forms: painting, writing, music, sculpture, is now recognised.

Natan Spigel’s work can be seen in public collections in Tel Aviv, London, Lublin, Ein Harod. Sadly, only about 20 of his paintings are definitely known to have survived and the Natan Spigel Foundation is keen to extend knowledge of his remaining works.

 

 

 

The Natan Spigel Foundation is committed to promoting his work and artistic heritage and helping to ensure that those of his works which were not destroyed are made available to a wider public through exhibition in public collections. If you wish to know more about the work of the Natan Spigel Foundation you can email: natanspigel@googlemail.com