The Story of the Biblical Miniatures
Moshe Bromberg and his young family immigrated to Israel in the summer of 1950 and settled in Tel Aviv until 1952. In that year, the family moved to Ramat-Gan and Moshe Bromberg was also awarded a small art project in Jerusalem for the National exhibition. This project consisted of creating small sculptured figure heads, representing the features of the various men immigrating to Israel from all over the world. During this project Moshe met the second president of the new state, Mr. Yitzhak Ben Zvie.
As a result of this meeting and the exposure of the president to samples of Moshe art work, two events took place. The first one was the request to decorate the Israeli president’s wooden dwelling/reception hall with Moshe’s art work. The motif for this work was chosen to be the seven different fruits that the land of Israel was blessed and mentioned in the Bible.
The second occurrence was much more profound and affected Moshe’s art world and career as an artist to the end of his life. The Israeli president encouraged Moshe to use the unique stories from the Bible as inspiration for his future paintings. After much thoughts and dwelling how to create original art work, Moshe decided to draw the various famous scenes from the Bible in a miniature format, meaning drawing on typical book size paper, consisting all the small details required to depict every aspect from the Biblical land, its flora, fauna, people’s attire, weapons, inside and outside building shapes, colour and thus creating the atmosphere of the Bible stories. There is no doubt that his life in the southern part of Asian Russia, near the border with Iran, during the war years, influenced his art technique, as he came across ancient Persian Miniature art form.
The drawings consisted of the main theme and elaborate frame around it, which took as long to complete as the main theme. The drawing started as many pencil sketches, which are in themselves small treasured art works, then proceeding to paint with Gouache paint and a Chinese brush with one strand of hair at the end and with the aid of a magnifying glass. The whole process would take from six to twelve months for each painting. There were a total of twenty miniatures painted in the same process and the whole project took about fifteen years to complete starting about mid fifties and end about late sixties. His signature appears in a few places in each Miniature and is as small and other details, less than 0.25 of a millimetre and can be seen with a magnifying glass much easier than with the naked eye.
During this period, Moshe also work as an art teacher in a few schools in Ramat Gan and Tel Aviv, bringing up his young family with a modest artist income that consisted of some sales from the occasional oil painting and the teaching position.
When Moshe exhibited his oil paintings and miniatures for the first time after the 1967 six days war, it created a tremendous positive response from the Israeli art critiques and art community, as a very original work of the period. Moshe continued his exhibitions across Israel and after 1972 in Canada too, as his son move to that country.
To best illustrate some of these responses, and demonstrate a typical interview with the artist, the following is an extract from an article, describing a positive reaction to one of Moshe’s art work and exhibition in Canada.
The Art of Moshe Bar-Am
Extract from ‘The Jewish Standard’, Toronto, Ontario, September 1978:
(Bar-Am finds inspiration in the fascinating pages of the Bible, Bar-Am’s talent reaches fulfilment in its devotion to perfection) by Julius Hayman:
“…..Bar-Am is a craftsman. No reproduction can faithfully reflect the tremendous detail which goes into his work. His Biblical Miniatures, perhaps the most significant of his art, demand long hours of preliminary research, an examination of archaeological evidence, a peering into history for details which escape most historians, who are deeply concerned with the broad sweep of events but have little patience for such tangential data as fashions, flowers and fauna.
Bar-Am’s Biblical Miniatures are exquisites pieces. They recreate in all of their fascinating minutiae the stories they illustrate, whether it be the Song of Songs, the slaying of Siestra, David playing before Saul or Samson. But they are extremely demanding and exhausting. The artist in fact, felt that it was his life’s work and to it he devoted every spare moment of his time, every spare ounce of his energy, neglecting painting of the more conventional type. He is tied to his magnifying glass, leaving to his understanding wife the usual responsibilities of the home.
His experiments in this technique resulted in the use of Tempera colours, layer by layer, until he achieved satisfactory colour-tones. More often than not he used a fine Chinese brush, with a single strand of hair. It took six months to complete each painting, half of which was devoted to the rich border decorations, each of different composition, related to the theme. And so the Biblical figures of Samson, Gideon, Ehud, David and Saul, Solomon and the Queen of Sheba and others emerged in bright colours and rich decorations, a vivid reproduction of the ancient history which is described in the Bible. And reflecting the present composition of Israel’s population, the artist includes features of Yemenites Jews and Jews from Iraq and Iran, who were part of the first exile – for he considers them the prototype of the Biblical characters he was using in his paintings.
He also chose the natural setting of the Israeli landscape, its vegetation and the special colours which were so inspiring…….”