Renowned Israeli Artist Menashe Kadishman Dies at 82

Kadishman, best known for his sheep paintings and iconic sculptures, received the Israel Prize in 1995.

Shany Littman
Shany Littman
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Menashe Kadishman in 2007.
Menashe Kadishman in 2007.Credit: Assaf Evron
Shany Littman
Shany Littman

Israeli painter and sculptor Menashe Kadishman died on Friday evening in Tel Aviv. He was 82.

Kadishman, recipient of the Israel Prize for his sculpting works, was best known for his sheep paintings, as well as several iconic sculptures.

He had been hospitalized at Tel Hashomer Hospital.

Kadishman was born in Tel Aviv in 1932. His father died when he was 15, and he left school to help provide for the family. In 1950 he served with the IDF Nahal infantry brigade, and as part of his service herded sheep at Kibbutz Ma'ayan Baruch and Kibbutz Yizrael.

Herding was Kadishman's first encounter with what was to become the most central motif of his art – sheep.

After his military service, Kadishman studied sculpting with Moshe Sternschuss and Rudi Lehmann at Ein Hod. In 1959 he went to London and attended Saint Martin's School of Art. Kadishman spent 12 years in London, where he also married and where his children were born.

His early work was characterized by a modernistic style. In the 1960s he was close to artists such as Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Christo, and enjoyed a flourishing international career.

A sheep painting by Menashe Kadishman.

Ellen Ginton, curator at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, said that Kadishman's "sculptures before the sheep stage were works that went against gravity, something utopic, and that drew international fame."

In 1968, Kadishman took part in the documenta exhibition in Kassel, Germany, and in 1978 was chosen to represent Israel at the Venice Biennale. He turned the Israeli display in Venice into a sheep pen, complete with a flock of live sheep whose backs he painted with blue spots. Kadishman served as shepherd.

"The sheep are a part of me" Kadishman had said of the theme that recurred in his work. "I feel like every sheep hanging at home is like an icon of Saint Mary hanging in a Christian home."

Kadishman's sculptures are displayed across Israel. One of his most famous works, dubbed "Uprise," is a 15-meter steel statue located in Tel Aviv's Habima Square.

Menashe Kadishman's "Uprise" sculpture at Tel Aviv's Habima Square. Photo by Guy Raivitz

In 1995, he received the Israel Prize for sculpture.

Kadishman's death is a great loss for Israel's art world, Ginton, the curator, said.

"He belongs to a generation of artists with stature," she said. "When he entered the room, people would feel it. [He had] a charismatic presence that is linked to an idea of bohemia that no longer exists, and ideas of artistic freedom that no longer exist or have changed, and it's an inseparable part of the history of what has happened here since the '60s.

"Kadishman left a mark. The Biennale where he showed the flock of sheep was one of the only Biennales where the Israeli display received worldwide resonance."

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