Robert Baser Biography – Jacob Samuel

Born in Athens. His father was a leather merchant who frequently traveled to Turkey and for this reason his family moved to Istanbul when he was a child. In 1923, when the war between the Turkish and Greeks broke, his family returned to Athens, were he completed his formal art studies at the Athens Academy of Fine Art.


As a student he participated in a group show in which he won first prize for his water- colors (Aquarelle) drawings, he was the youngest person ever to win this national award. When he finished school, he earned a living from graphic works and painting commercial adds. An example to his work is the cover of the Greek cigarettes box “Paps- Starto”. In the beginning of the 30’s, he met a young Jewish girl that came from Poland to Greece, and together they decided to get married and immigrate to Palestine. They tried arriving to Palestine in a boat but realized in the last moment that they do not poses “Aliya” (the privilege to immigrate to Palestine) licenses and had to manage a way to enter Palestine via Lebanon. They arrived to Palestine in 1934 when Baser was only 26 years old.

With his arrival He joined the newly founded Israeli Artists Association. His first exhibition in Palestine was held in Café Hilel In Tel- Aviv. When the Second World War broke, he was one of the first to volunteer to the British Army, in which he received in 1940 the British Army award for his accomplishment in the field of fine art. When he was sent to the front line in the war, he jumped from the train, escaping his duties. He become a deserter and was sent to an observation. He explained to the physician that examined him that he cannot stand the sight of blood, and he was released from all duties after a month in a military jail.

Baser was one of the artists that left the Artists Association after the Israeli Liberation War in 1949. The group of those who left the association was called “The Retired”. The reason for their retirement was mainly the problematic chairman of the association- Zaritzky, who led the artists to a clear orientation towards Lyrical Abstract. Zaritzky was known for his charismatic and somewhat problematic personality, which made him purchase some enemies. “The Retired” were the founders of the Israeli group called “Ofakim Hadashim” (new horizons). This group introduced the modern art to the Israeli public. It was, in many ways, revolutionary.
During the 50th, “Ofakim Hadashim” broke apart, and each of its’ members turned to his own path. It was only now that Baser will fulfill his dream and move to Paris. In 1954, he and his wife Rebeca, a notorious jewelry designer, packed their belongings and immigrated to France. In Paris he begin sculpturing for the first time. Due to lack of money, in the first period to his life in Paris, his sculptures were built from garbage he managed to collect from the streets.

The artists’ commune in Paris embraced Baser very easily, and very quick he established a reputation as an “artists’ artist”. He was a part of what is called the Parisian Avant- Guard and a member of the “Realite Novell” Salon group, who had 180 members from all over the world.
After a seven years, Baser felt growing yearning to Israel and he came back, settling down in the city of Safad in the north of Israel.

After his return to Israel he presented his works in the National Museum of Israel in Jerusalem, in the Museum of Modern Art in Tel- Aviv, and he continued presenting his work annually in Athens. In the beginning of his career his was a figurative painter, but slowly he became much closer to Abstract. Baser was known as a water colorist of Mediterranean scenery, from Jaffa to Spain and His sculpture embodied social content and protest against inequity, reflecting the great humanist he was. Baser had a number of one-man shows in various museums, and was awarded among others, the Dizengoff Prize in 1946 and again in 1969, and the Monaco Prize, First Grade, in 1966.
In her book “Robert Baser- Water Colors”, professor Gila Balas wrote:
“If there was ever a doubt regarding the existence of a Mediterranean painting, Robert Baser’s work certainly withdraws all doubt. From Athens, were this artist was born, this young man arrived to Palestine, to another seashore of the same sea. And so, while his fellow artists friends that came from Europe and were astounded by the Israeli sun, Baser felt right at home with this climate”.
Baser gained a name for himself amongst painters of this same school, such as Nahum Gutman and Shimshon Holtzman. But while Holtzman had some difficulties to leave of figures and objects, and the Gutman’s fine sense of humor was almost like a story telling, Baser’s paintings were pure painting. The brush, the paint, the paper and nothing else but the knowledge of laying- down paint technique. It seems that no one could express the sea and the warm weather better then him. His hand movements were light as a true virtuoso. The song of nature and light was his song and this tight connection well reflects in the dance of the brushes on the drawing paper, may they be big or small.

“All my life I sculpture. In bronze, led, in synthetic materials, almost from everything. I made so many sculptures. It was before over then 30 years that I presented my works with the works of Vassareli and Cesar, sculptures I made with Kinetics elements, do you understand? I’m a sculptor, a painter and a sculptor.”
“You said sculptor twice, why?”
“That is because here in Israel people do not know me as a sculptor. They know only my Aquarelle paintings, but in Paris they know that I am also a sculptor”.
“Does it bother you that people do not know you are a sculptor”?
“It is like having a part in your body that you cannot see”.
Zomet Hasharon, 1988.
Baser got the recognition he was hoping for as a sculptor in the year 1969, when one of his led sculptures earned him the Dizingoff Prize.

In 1990, when Baser won the Discount Award, the judges that picked him as a winner explained:
“Robert Baser is a fruitful artist in various fields. His aquarelle paintings play an important role in the history of art in Israel. They characterized with a glowing and rich colors and refine and sensitive transparency- a loyal translation of the local light qualities. Baser’s paintings are filled with hedonism and the enjoyment of life. These qualities made him one of the most important formulators of the Mediterranean qualities”.
Globs, 1990.


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