Sima Slonim

1910Jaffa, Palestina | 1999Unknown, Israel
Sima Slonim — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Portrait of Sima Slonim

Israeli painter.

Slima Slonim, a pioneer Israeli female artist, was one of the few painters of her generation born in the country, which was officially established as a state in 1948. A fifth generation Israeli, she was born in Jaffa into a religious Jewish Orthodox family. During her long career, S. Slonim adopted both the contemporary trends of the international and local artistic scenes, but always preserved her distinctive personal style and remained, first and foremost, a regional artist.
Part of the new generation of Israeli painters discouraged by a local art scene with no art museums and almost no art schools available, S. Slonim moved to Paris in the mid-1930s, pretending, for her parents’ sake, that she was moving to Haifa, a city in northern Israel. In Paris she associated with Chaim Soutine (1893-1943) and the circle of East European Jewish expressionist painters who had gathered in the city and was greatly influenced by the School of Paris. She studied at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and participated in a group exhibition, displaying her works next to those of Marc Chagall (1887-1985), Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Joan Miro (1893-1983) and Auguste Renoir (1841-1919). Influenced by the expressionist style, her paintings at that time, like her famous Portrait of Chaïm Soutine, were emotionally charged and used a distinctive range of dark colours and thick layer of paint.

After S. Slonim’s return to Israel in 1938, she made Haifa her home and was an active player in the Haifa circle of painters for the next 15 years. Her paintings gradually lost their sombre Parisian character and she begun using brighter, more vivid colours to depict the local Israeli light and landscape.
Following the establishment of the State of Israel, the abstract art style immersed the Israeli artistic scene, led by the Ofakim Chadashim (New horizons) movement, which strived to free itself from figurative painting. She partly adopted this art style – her new figures were portrayed using blurred lines and her landscapes, lacking realistic details, turned into a blending of colour patches and lines. Nevertheless, she never fully embraced abstraction and her paintings always included a realistic link to the local nature or scenery.
Thus having moved from her beginnings as a figurative painter, whose style was characterised by strong drawing lines and marked contrasts of colours, S. Slonim went through a gradual process of abstraction inspired by Israeli “lyric abstract”. However as a painter born and raised in the Israeli landscape, she asserted her need to completely express the connection she felt toward her surroundings, a country she described as drenched by light and soaked by heat.

In 1953, together with other Israeli artists, she founded the artists’ colony of Ein Hod in the heart of the Carmel forest, south of the city of Haifa. In spite of the most basic living conditions at the time, S. Slonim set up her home and studio in the village for the rest of her life.
Throughout her career, she was a devoted art teacher, bringing up a new generation of Israeli artists.

Zivi Berman & Keren Dagan

A notice produced as part of the TEAM international academic network: Teaching, E-learning, Agency and Mentoring

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