1125 College Avenue Columbus, Ohio 43209
ISSACHAR BER RYBACK
SHALOM OF SAFED
Born and initially trained in Lodz, Poland, Ze'ev Raban (1890-1970) studied in a variety of academies around Europe - the School of Applied Art in Munich, the Beaux-Arts Academy in Paris, and the Royal Academy of Art in Brussels. In 1911 he met Boris Schatz, the founder of the Bezalel Academy, a Zionist inspired school begun in 1903 to encourage a new Jewish cultural/art/craft tradition in the Jewish homeland.
In the latter half of the 19th and the early 20th centuries a number of centers were established in order to develop "new" decorative arts. Among the more famous were the firms of William Morris and Christopher Dresser in England, the Faberge's in Russia, the Wiener Werkstette in Austria, and the Tiffany Studios in the United States. These and similar workshops, frequently based on a political or sociological ideology, profoundly influenced the arts, crafts, architecture and industrial design of the societies within which they functioned.
Schatz's goal for the Bezalel Academy and Workshops, in which Raban participated starting in 1912, was to establish a Jewish arts and crafts tradition that combined the best of European and indigenous Middle-Eastern cultures. Raban soon became a major influence at the Bezalel. He played a central role at the Academy teaching repoussé work, painting, and sculpture and then directing the Graphics Press and the Industrial Art Studio of the Bezalel Academy. By 1914 the majority of works produced in the Bezalel workshops were designed by Raban.
Raban was also an influential industrial designer in Palestine and later Israel. He designed posters, consumer goods packaging (the most reproduced of which must have been the "classic" 44 Chanukah candle box), and architectural elements for many of the important buildings of Palestine such as the YMCA building, the King David Hotel, the Bezalel building, and the Bikur-Cholim Hospital. He also designed many of the ceramic tiles that still decorate Tel-Aviv buildings. But arguably his most important contributions were the illustrations he made for the various books he published - the Song of Songs, the Book of Ruth, the Book of Esther, the Book of Job, and the Passover Haggadah. These illustrations represent the pinnacle of the "Bezalel Style" - a fusion of ‘oriental' art and Jugendstil. However, with the emergence of "modernism", the influence of the Bezalel Academy, as well of the many other design schools of that period waned. Recently, the work that came from these design movements as well as the designs of Raban have garnered new attention, and Bezalel pieces are now sought after.