Artist Abel Pann 1883-1963
Over many years, Abel Pann (1883-1963) was regarded as the foremost Land Of Israel Painter. This view was shared by the Jewish community throughout the world and by the general public in pre-State Israel where reproductions of his works were hung in almost every home”. This is how Yigal Zalmone, Chief Art Curator of the Israel Museum, describes Abel Pann.
Abel Pann was born in 1883 in the town of Kreslawka in the Vetebsk region of White Russia. His father Nahum was a rabbi and head of a yeshivah, a religious academy. Pann received a Jewish elementary school education until he was twelve. He studied the fundamentals of drawing for three months with the painter Yehuda Pen of Vetebsk, who also taught Marc Chagall and Ossip Zadkine. When he was twelve he traveled between Russian and Poland, earning money as an apprentice in sign workshops. In 1898 he went south to Odessa, where he was accepted by the Academy of Fine Arts.
In 1903 Pann moved to Paris, where his work included depictions of Jewish daily life, Parisian genre paintings, as well as sketches and caricatures that were humorous and psychological criticisms regarding society. His empathy for the poor and wretched became well known.
In 1912, the director of the Bezalel School of Art and Crafts in Jerusalem asked Abel Pann to teach at the school which he accepted a year later.
During the first year of World War I, Pann was restricted to leave Europe after he returned to recover belongings to take back to Jerusalem. During the first years of the war, he concentrated on popular, nationalist posters and illustrations, including depictions of the cruelty of the German enemy.
In 1920 he returned to Jerusalem and resumed teaching at the Bezalel School, and formed the Palestine Art Publishing Company with which he used to print his albums of Bible illustrations. Abel Pann devoted much of his energy to these illustrations.
An interesting approach that Pann used in these illustrations was to depict the Biblical subjects using contemporary clothing and imagery. Using contemporary Middle Eastern characters in Oriental dress within local settings fulfilled the Zionist dream that the Jewish people were going to return to their homeland and renew its days of old.