Dora Holzhandler is one of my favorite Jewish artists who has exhibited her works in the UK and in Israel. Born in Paris in 1928 to Polish refugee parents, she later moved to London where she grew up, married and engaged in a highly productive creative life.
While her painting style can be described as naïve through the use of flattened perspective and forms, the influences on her work such as Jewish and Buddhist spiritual traditions, poetry, folk painting, and Persian miniature painting point to an artist who was keenly aware of the world of art (she had some art school training and went to art exhibits) and the Jewish community that she lived in.
Her paintings embody figures set against backdrops of dazzling patterns in heavily detailed jewel-like interiors and garden settings. Drawing on themes from Jewish life, her paintings embrace memory as in Childhood Memories of the Synagogue, 1986; My Grandparents in Poland, 1988) and a celebration of Jewish holidays (Sabbath Meal, 1985; Succoth Meal, 1993; Chanukah, 1993; Young Girls Dancing at Shavuot, 1993).
There are an abundance of paintings with maternal themes (Mother and Children at Passover, 1988; Raisons and Almonds, 1994), romantic love themes suggestive of Chagall (Moroccan Lovers, 1992; Lovers in Winter, 1994), and portraits of rabbis. Her paintings of women engaging in domestic themes (shopping, picking flowers, and eating) and urban life (The Willow Tea Room, Glasgow, 1990) provide a unique glimpse into her daily out-and-about activities as wife/mother in England and the interesting shops and sites within her community.
When I look at her paintings (such as Chanukah
, left) I sense joy not only because of the delightful way she has painted her subjects but also for the way that she has so beautifully captured the Jewish life she lived and experienced.
To read more about Dora's life and view her works see: Vann, P. (1997). Dora Holzhandler. New York: Overlook Press. Dora Holzhandler’s website: http://doraholzhandler.com/