Drawing the face of a nation

The Tel Aviv Museum of Art presents a new exhibit of the classic graphic designs of Israeli artist Otte Wallish.

A design by Otte Wallish (photo credit: Courtesy)
A design by Otte Wallish
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Tel Aviv Museum of Art is presenting the first comprehensive exhibition of works by one of Israel’s first and foremost graphic artists, Otte Wallish. The exhibition, “Otte Wallish: The Face of Land and Nation,” will be on show in the Prints and Drawings Gallery, Gallery of the German Friends of TAMA, through October 5, 2015.
Wallish (1906-1977) created images celebrating the values of Zionism, designing stamps and posters with themes that included pioneering, clandestine immigration, the Holocaust, the Jewish revival in the land of Israel and the cultivation of the land. He was responsible for the design and dissemination of many of the symbols that were assimilated into the local cultural landscape, and played a significant role in shaping Israel during the pre-state and post-independence periods.
On show at the TAMA are some of the posters and advertisements Wallish designed for various Israeli companies including Tnuva, Hadran and Osem, as well as promotional materials, symbols and coins that he produced for various official Israeli government organizations.
“Wallish’s contribution to forming Israel’s visual culture is one of the most fascinating stories of his time, yet has remained relatively unrecognized until the opening of this exhibition. We hope his work will now receive its rightful place in the pantheon of Israeli culture” said curator Emanuela Calò.
Wallish was born in the city of Znojmo (today in the Czech Republic) and studied at the Vienna Art Academy. He subsequently opened a successful graphic design and advertising office in Prague, where he established his Zionist world view even prior to his immigration to Palestine in 1934, as part of the Fifth Aliya. At that time, given the small size of the local Jewish community and its lack of funds, posters became the main publicity tool employed by both ideologically driven institutions and commercial enterprises.
In addition to designing posters, Wallish is known for designing the first stamps issued by the Israel Post, and more famously for his design of the parchment scroll for the Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel, which was signed in 1948 in the first Tel Aviv Museum, then located at 16 Rothschild Boulevard.
Wallish’s body of work echoes the spirit of his time, as well as the changing fashions, tastes and inclinations that have molded Israeli culture.
“He left a distinct mark on the history of the Israeli state, successfully imprinting almost everything he came upon with a particular visual character. His works reveal his keen awareness of the historical importance of the events he contributed to, and participated in defining major historical moments” said Calò.
The exhibition features a selection of the posters from the museum collection, which were gifts from Wallish’s son Eri, as well as items from the private collection of Eri Wallish. The exhibition and catalogue are supported by Ingrid Flick.
For additional information about ‘Otte Wallish: The Face of Land and Nation’ visit www.tamuseum.org.il or call (03) 607-7020.