the george Club The Conversation Halivny’s Aesthetic Heritage

Halivny’s Aesthetic Heritage

The Work of Elazar Halivny; Roots, Recognition & Community

One of the principle design elements of constructing The George was to bring together Israeli roots with modern influences. Celebrated interior designer and artist Lazaro Rosa-Violan’s keen eye and graceful nuance bring these elements together in a supreme way. He took the work of Elazar Halivny, an unassuming Israeli ceramicist and envisioned his ancient Biblical motifs dancing across the bottom of The George’s eye-popping, blissfully-designed pool.

The pool drawing inspired by Halivny works

Born in 1901 in Poland, Halivny immigrated to Israel in 1920 and moved to the Ramat Yohanan Kibbutz in 1940. Having worked in various farm jobs and vineyards, he began to draw caricatures of kibbutz life, also greatly inspired by the Bedouin and their agricultural and communal living. Authentic cultural art was used as a key factor in deepening the Zionist existence, and Halivny internalized that perspective, solidfying the connection between past traditions and the present age. Throughout his work as an artist, he received great accolades from key art figures and excellent reviews. Some saw him as an artist who paved the way for Jewish art.

Halivny’s rustic pottery, paintings and sketches carry a primal quality; rough-hewn drawings of laborers swathed in peasant robes, bearded men with head coverings, toiling the land, animals of the desert, including golden rams, goats, donkeys and ibex, all signify an ode to ancient Israel, the simple, wholesome daily life on a kibbutz, the seasons of years passed in a village and a color palette extracted straight from the earth. His work is an inspiring dialogue about the human and societal relationship with nature.

Halivny created vessels by casting them in molds, and using pencil and paint, he would draw paintings of Israeli landscapes, ancient figures, agricultural scenes, animals and scenes from Israeli life, like symbolic, ancient figures come to life. His pastoral visions of olive trees, ancient faces wrapped in shawls, carrying heavy urns above their shoulders, some mid-step, as if frozen in a dance, are part of a diverse artistry. They track a passage of time and a way of slow living that has progressively become rarer and rarer in our day and age.

Not only did Halivny tap into this concept at its core, but his camaraderie and community, including a cadre of pioneers and contemporaries like Hana Levi, Yitzhak Frekel, Irene and Azriel Awret, settled into kibbutz life and saw themselves as taking part in achieving the vision of the Jewish people through Zionism. This circle of friends, peers, and fellow creatives created an enviable ‘branja’, in Hebrew. Something that, living in a city, is always sought after. To identify as a city mouse or a country mouse is an undeniable question of where one finds his or her place in the world. Creating a community is so much a part of one’s livelihood, interest and vibrancy. The George felt that in Halivny’s work and used it as a touchstone for inspiration in its vision and foundation for its own space and establishing a community.

Living on the kibbutz, Halivny was celebrated for his artwork in the community, and his paintings still border the perimeter of the Ramat Yohanan Kibbutz dining hall, to this day. Much like the communal cafeteria where everyone in the village convenes for meals, The George’s pool is a focal point for meeting and greeting, socializing and encompassing the day’s goings-on. It is the modern-day space for city gathering; a fitting place for Halivny’s work to be transformed into a new, remixed iteration through the eyes of Lazaro Rosa-Violan. 

Halivny’s distinct color palette pulled from a mix of deep blues and mud brown, with gradient shades from light to dark; it is almost as if actual mud had been used to color in the figures. Rosa-Violan’s iteration is lighter on its feet, with terra-cotta and goldish hues paired with bright mint-to-turquoise-to-deep-green color ways. 

The outdoor landscape of The George’s pool area has a semblance of vineyards within a city atmosphere. A trellis curves above one side of the pool, expecting a harvest of flowering vines. And Halivny’s inspired work is ever-present, looking up to the sky from the pool’s glistening bottom; a tribute to agricultural and cultural heritage – past, present and future.

Book published in 2019, all photos by Avraham Hay