December 25, 2009
Prime ministerial portraiture
Art donation to CHFU will stay in Jerusalem permanently.
Vancouver artist Joy Caros has donated 20 paintings to Canadian Friends of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which will lend them to the Israel Prime Minister's Office.
Caros has been doing portraits for more than 20 years. These particular works – of the prime ministers and presidents of Israel – have toured around the world "to get support for Israel, because we're Zionists at heart," said Caros' husband, James, who added, "And I have a brother who's lived in Israel for 40 years, and he's a film producer. So we've been to Israel a number of times, and Joy had this idea to do something for the 50th anniversary."
It was suggested that she do a portrait of one of the prime ministers, he explained, "and so Joy said, 'Yeah, that's a good idea,' and she started. We went over there [to Israel] for about three months and got archival photographs of the prime ministers that are no longer living. She really got on to this and said, 'Well, I'm going to do the whole bunch, do them all.' "
"When I did Golda," said Joy Caros, "I wanted to put the star behind her head. That was the idea for putting the Star of David there, like a queen. I mean, I liked her, and so it started with her. Then I thought, well, I can't do that with everybody, so I'll start to do the [Israeli] flag behind some of them."
CFHU national director Rami Kleinmann said he met the Caroses nine years ago, the connection being established through James Caros' brother. "They started opening this huge portrait, which was fascinating," explained Kleinmann about the meeting at West Edmonton Mall. "And really what I admire is the commitment and the passion [of] both of them, of course. It's a huge commitment from an artist to create 18 portraits, now 18 [so far], and all out of love to Israel."
Kleinmann noted the positive reaction from audiences to exhibits of the paintings. He said that the idea is appealing because, when you consider the people who have led the country, "a lot of the people [are] already deceased out of this very impressive list of names, then you understand the need for the legacy, then you understand the need for portraits of a leader."
He said, "Now, the latest thing they're thinking is to take all of the presidents and to create one of the main boardrooms of the government as the Presidential Room and to put only the portraits of the presidents [there]. I think that it's so nice to see, after nine years, how it's finally, the expectation of the artist and the meaningful use of the government of these portraits are coming together."
"I think it's God's timing," added Joy Caros. "I have to tell you that because I know it was His idea when we first came up with the idea, but when I started to go to the [Israel] Press Office to get the photographs of the ones that were dead already, they were all in black and white. So, I'm saying to God, how am I going to paint these when I don't know what color their eyes are or anything? When I sat down to start painting them, I saw all the photographs in color. And I saw them all in color until they were finished."
"And you got them right," said Kleinmann, "And they all match the personalities."
Later, Caros explained, "When you paint somebody, you're doing every little muscle and this is where our expressions are. Well, you know, you look at them in the eye ... I get that relationship, so then, my portraits, when people look at the finished portraits, they always say they're so alive. Well, we're kind of talking ... as I'm painting."
Dina Wachtel, executive director of CHFU Vancouver, connected to the Caroses through Joe Segal two years ago. Caros has done portraits for the Segal family, and has had other clients in the Jewish community, including Joseph Cohen.
About the 20 paintings Caros is giving to CHFU, Kleinmann said, "They are going home."
"That's right," agreed the artist.
Limited edition giclee prints of prime ministers David Ben Gurion, Golda Meir, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Binyamin Netanyahu are available for purchase. Caros also takes commissions. For more information, contact CFHU at 604-257-5133.