The painter Avraham Binder inherited his artistic genes from his father and grandfather, and possibly from earlier ancestors, who were all “binders”, that is to say, bookbinders – hence the name. They were true master of their craft, as witnessed by a certificate of excellence in artistic bookbinding – still in Avraham Binder’s possession – awarded to his father in 1910. The occasion was an exhibit of industrial achievements and the carious crafts of Czarist Russia. The artist recalls that his grandfather, too, was a bookbinder – and an adherent of the Hasidic Rabbi of Karlin. And so he would make a yearly pilgrimage on foot, from his hometown Grodno to Karlin, to bind his Rabbi’s books! The talmudic tomes in the library of the Rabbi of Karlin boasted the most artistic bindings.
These artistic inclinations in the family’s forebears manifested themselves in Avraham Binder, his sister Zila Binder and his daughter Yael, all of whom became painters.
Avraham Binder was born in 1906 in Vilna. He began painting at an early age and completed the prescribed studies in painting at the academy of arts in his native city. Already upon graduation, at the commencement exhibition of works submitted by the graduates, he was awarded a prize in recognition of his talents.
The Binder family immigrated to Palestine at the end of the 1920′s. Avraham’s father opened a bookbinding workshop in Tel-Aviv, while the son turned to painting. Many of his canvases – portraits, landscapes – are in the possession of dozens of collectors. He has had many exhibitions in Israeli galleries as well as museums – in particular, the Tel-Aviv Museum of Art. He has also exhibited abroad, especially in the United States.
Particularly memorable are his urban landscapes with their predominance of blues and aquamarines, composed of a profusion of squares and rectangles, crowding one another and covering nearly the entire canvas. The angular shapes are interspersed with radiant dots of red, gold and yellow, like the lights of the big city. Those squares and rectangles reflect, perhaps, impressions of a childhood spent among books which were scattered about the home and workshop of his father, the bookbinder. These shapes, no doubt, had their influence upon the artist whose first youthful impressions were – books.
Traces of these shapes are discernible in Binder’s work to this day, in the angularity of splashes of color which, no longer crowded together, are now well separated to create an airy spaciousness. Not only the splashes of color – the inventing space, too – creates figurative effects in the artist’s treatment.
Avraham Binder is not a “cerebral” painter. Neither identified with any particular modern school, nor preaching any narrow artistic doctrine, he is an emotional artist: his inspiration, derived from the heart, leads him on to the most varied range of treatments in his artistic work. In vain might one try to persuade him to define his personal conception of painting. He is not one to indulge in verbal explanation. But his sheer artistic skill, his virtuosity with the paint brush, did impel him to experiment widely with the artistic techniques of the modern age. And his exceptional talent stood him in good stead in all this experimentation.
Binders large-scale urban landscapes are not mere constructs to represent out present-day architecture with its pervasive angularity. Made up as they are of color, Binder’s unique color composition qualifies these canvases to be ranked among the foremost artistic works in Israeli painting. They are uniquely Binder, very different from what we see in the work of his contemporaries.
Here and there, Binder also introduces the human element into these paintings. He lives and breathes the atmosphere of his surroundings, deeply experiencing the sea and the shore of Tel-Aviv that confront him day after day, and which he has transferred to his canvases, as metaphors in paint, throughout the life. More recently, he has created a new series of shore-and-seascapes, in tones ranging from brown to blue. ochre, violet and pale yellow – marvelous views of the sea and of figures enlivening its shore. In yet another series, featuring nearly the same range of hues, he lets us view, through his eyes, the Carmel Market in Tel-Aviv, or the city’s coffee houses with their crowds of people, heads bunched together as if in search of human closeness, with the windows looking in upon them. He has also done large paintings of Jerusalem – not the Jerusalem of gloom and holiness, but a Jerusalem in contrast to the flat topography of Tel-Aviv; it is this different topography which here provides the challenge for him as a painter. And the colors – the colors are bright, full of light, an inner illumination which seems to emanate from the artist himself, rather than from the sun beating down from above.
So many great artists have built their life’s work upon watercolors. Binder’s watercolors are in no way inferior in their artistic worth to many of those, what with their spontaneity, their translucent quality, their color combinations, and the artist’s ability to say so much with an economy of brush strokes.
We have here a painter who, until the end of his life, was still in his full creative powers, and who continued to add to his impressive storehouse of artistic works. Hundreds of his paintings grace the homes of collectors in Israel and throughout the world, or hang in his private collection; they include Israel landscapes and, most importantly, cityscapes; an exquisite series of wild flowers; many portrait paintings; experimental wood sculptures; murals painted on wood panels; reliefs…, etc. All these are testimony to an artist who refuses to rest on his laurels, who forever reaches out to try his hand at new challenges, strikes out in novel directions, discovers innovative techniques, and experiments in all the dimensions of the plastic arts.
Avraham Binder’s insatiable curiosity advanced him into the front ranks of our nation’s artists.
Sea of Lights (Book)
Sea of Lights was written by Binder’s daughter, Yael Remen. Here’s a description of the book:
The story of Avraham Binder, his art, his loves, and his relationships with his contemporaries, is captured in the historical novel Sea of Lights. The novel takes the reader to the artist’s childhood in Lithuania, where his talent was discovered and shaped, and to his adult years in Tel Aviv, where he established himself as a member of the first generation of Israeli painters, creating art in tempestuous years of war, political strife, and economic hardship. Binder never abandoned his innate sunniness and optimism, which shine through in his works. The novel sheds light on his quest to express love in his art; his love for his mother, his wife, and his country.
The novel also tells the story of his sister, painter Tzila Binder, whom Avraham nurtured as an older brother in childhood as in adulthood. Tzila devoted her life to her lover, poet Nathan Alterman, but throughout, Avraham remained her trusted and loyal friend. Sea of Lights ends with Binder’s passing, in October 2001.
Avraham Binder (Book)
Here’s a link the book, Avraham Binder (PDF).
Binder and His Wife Sara
Binder and his wife Sara in a photo for a magazine article about age and longevity, taken in 2000. At the time he was 94 years old.