Examining the work and legacy of Anna Ticho

The writer, a nephew of the Tichos, delivered these comments at the opening of the Anna Ticho “Lifescape” exhibit, on October 25, 2018.

Inside Ticho House, 2015 (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Inside Ticho House, 2015
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
 I am truly honored to speak on this occasion and say a few words about my dear aunt Anna. I am certain there are many gathered here this evening who can expertly discuss the nature and quality of Anna’s art and her influence and impact on the Israeli artistic scene – so I will limit myself to just Anna, the person that she was – the person that I knew.
My earliest memories of Anna date back to 1934, when she and her husband Dr. Abraham (Albert) came to my older brother’s bar mitzvah. I knew I had two uncles who were living in Palestine. I had already met Uncle Aaron (Alfred) several times, but this was special: my first meeting with the uncle who moved to Palestine in 1912 and was now considered to be the best ophthalmologist in the Middle East. All I knew about Anna was that she was an assistant in her husband’s eye surgery and that she was my uncle’s first cousin.
From the early 1920s on, this building – this home of Dr. Albert and Anna Ticho, the “Ticho House” – became a key element of Jerusalem’s social life. Everyone of stature residing in Jerusalem or arriving as a visitor to Jerusalem was seen at social events at the Ticho house. Writers, poets, philosophers, statesmen, politicians, scientists, artists, musicians, physicians, military officers – Muslim, Jew or Christian – all found their way to the Ticho apartment on the second floor of this building. Anna was a gracious hostess and was never too busy to be kind and attentive to her guests. 
Whenever I arrived at the house, whether announced or unannounced, I was always welcomed with open arms. Anna would immediately inquire whether I wanted to eat or drink something; she would then ignore my response and personally saw to my assumed needs. Then, with the food and drink set before me, she would sit down facing me and inquire about all the news I could bring to her. In 1953, when I was the first family member from the United States to arrive after the war and the Holocaust, the questioning was quite extensive and detailed. 

This little woman, with her ready smile and bright eyes, would not release me until she had answers to all her questions. She would look straight into my eyes and I would get the feeling that every word I uttered was of great interest to her. Even when she became a widow, became handicapped by arthritis and was concentrating all her energies on her art, she would nevertheless always welcome me in the same graceful manner. ]
Street named for the eye specialist, near Jerusalem's Beit David compound. (Wikimedia commons)Street named for the eye specialist, near Jerusalem's Beit David compound. (Wikimedia commons)
Dr. Ticho had a comfortable cot in his office that became my resting place whenever I stayed in Jerusalem overnight. The room also contained his sizeable library of interesting books. The most fascinating and riveting books I located was a set of German encyclopedias from 1904. These volumes offered an amazing opportunity to learn and study. I was constantly surprised as I discovered how much was already known back at the start of the 1900s.
During my visits I was not treated differently from anyone else. Anna’s charm captivated everyone who came in touch with her. Not even the yearlong siege of Jerusalem in 1948 during the War of Independence prevented Anna from being a proper hostess. The beds for patients on the first floor became beds for people seeking refuge. Some 25 people found shelter inside this house during the heaviest fighting. The building suffered some damage – including, as I remember, bullet holes in a bathroom door. Food and medicine were in very short supply, yet somehow Anna managed to provide for her guests until the siege was finally lifted by the victorious Israeli Army.
Whenever time permitted, Anna would gather up her art supplies, get into her small Ford two-door sedan and have the driver take her somewhere into the hills around the city. There she would spend the day translating what she saw onto paper. These were not photographic reproductions. To the reality of the scene, Anna would add the heat, the intensity of the sun, the dryness of the vegetation and the loneliness of the area. 
WHEN HER husband Dr. Abraham Ticho died in 1960, she was able to give her art all of her time. For 20 years, even as arthritis made hand movements painful, she continued working. She spent more time now in her studio working from memory. She hardly ever went back to her beloved mountains and villages. When she died in 1980 at the age of 86, she left behind a large body of work. This, along with the Ticho House and the grounds, she willed to the Israel Museum. 
Her vision for the Ticho House was for it to become a place where the arts and the artists could meet the public and to create a quiet oasis in the midst of a very busy and expanding Jerusalem. Her wish and dream have been essentially achieved, particularly with the recent extensive and very successful renovations. Thus this house has, in addition to her art, become an integral part of Anna Ticho’s Lifescape.
To honor her memory, I had a plaque be placed on the Zeleny Trch, the large outdoor produce market in Brno, a city in the Czech Republic, to mark the location of her birth.