Ivan Schwebel leaves strong imprint on artistic community

The American Israeli painter’s work brought together ancient and modern Israel. He died last week at the age of 79 in Nahal Sorek.

Ivan Schwebel 311 (photo credit: www.schwebelpaints.com)
Ivan Schwebel 311
(photo credit: www.schwebelpaints.com)
Ivan Schwebel, an American-born Israeli artist who blended modern and ancient Jewish imagery and American cultural icons in his art, died last week. He was 79.
Schwebel was renowned for fusing images from different time periods in his paintings. He famously depicted biblical figures, such as King David and Job, in urban Israeli environments, such as Zion Square and modern Jerusalem. His works about the Holocaust combine different vignettes of Jewish history – the Spanish Expulsion, the ghettos and the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem skylines. Colorful and expressive, his pieces have been interpreted as commentaries on Israeli society and politics, and they have been exhibited in the Israel Museum and in museums and galleries throughout Israel and the US.
Schwebel’s daughter, Roni, described her father as a humorous, generous person who loved his family and adventures.
She said that her father enjoyed explaining his artwork to his children and grandchildren and that his home in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem neighborhood always smelled of paint.
Art collectors remembered Schwebel as a complicated personality and cherished the combination of Jewish history, modern Israeli iconography and American culture in his work.
“Schwebel’s ability to join the present to past Jewish history was unique,” said Shimshon Crystal, who coordinated two of Schwebel’s exhibitions in Tel Aviv.
“His works synthesized his imagination, his creativity and the reality in which he lived Yossi Sissman, owner of the Sissman Gallery in Tel Aviv, which sells Schwebel’s works, remembered Schwebel’s masterful drawing techniques.
Schwebel died last Tuesday while strolling in Nahal Sorek in the western part of the Jerusalem mountains, a place he visited several times a day with his dog and that was the subject of his recent series of paintings “A Safe Place.”
His daughter said that when Schwebel did not return home on Tuesday, his family knew to first search for him in his “safe place,” where he was found lying on his back on the path.
Though Schwebel had begun to age in recent years, his daughter said that he continued to paint and even painted the day he died. When he left for his walk, his coffee mug was half fill, a copy of The Jerusalem Post was laid open on his table, and his paints were wet.
Schwebel was born in West Virginia on October 29, 1932. He served in the American army and was deployed in Japan, where he studied painting with a Zen painter. When he returned to the US, Schwebel studied art history at New York University on a scholarship from the US Army.
He moved to Israel in 1963. Schwebel painted at his home in Ein Kerem and taught art briefly at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. He is survived by his wife, Adva, five children and six grandchildren.