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Susan T. Goodman

[Moscovitz, Shalom; Shalom of Safed]

(b Safed, Palestine [now Israel], 1887; d Safed, Jan 1980).

Israeli painter. For over 70 years he worked as a watchmaker as well as a scribe, silversmith and stonemason in Safed, an important centre of Jewish mysticism. After his watch-repair shop was destroyed in the War of Independence (1948), he earned a living by selling plywood toys coloured with crayon. In the mid-1950s Yosl Bergner, who recognized in these charming works the essential qualities of folk art, encouraged Shalom to paint. Shalom’s artistic vocabulary grew out of the rich traditions of his Hasidic heritage. The mystical literature of Safed and the deep impression made by the landscape of Israel contributed to his spiritual and visual development, while his work also reveals a deep affinity and commitment to the Scriptures, although he did much more than merely illustrate the scriptural narrative, as in Scenes from the Book of Ruth (1960; New York, Jew. Mus.). He created a pictorial unity from various recognized conventions, including discrepancies in scale between figures and settings in the depiction of groups in complex compositions, which heighten the expressive effect. Figures are depicted in profile or silhouetted in flat, unmodelled form (e.g. ...