New Life, London, June 1947
A Master of Water-Colours.
by Arnold Zweig
When I allowed myself to be led into the first exhibition
of water-colours by eleven-year-old Amos Jaskiel I was merely doing
his father a favour, and had already made up my mind, after a few polite
words, to return to my letters, essays and all the other work await-
ing me. Hardly, however, had I begun to look around before something
stood still within me; I could hardly believe my eyes and was hypnotised.
I had already seen thousands of drawings and pictures by children in
Europe, but nothing like this. Profoundly impressed I went from one
picture to another, looked, wondered, felt more and more captured and
entranced. "Believe it or not, he's a marvel!" A boy eleven years old?
Amos Jaskiel, whom I had seen grow up? See these magically arranged
planes, light and sweet in all colours of the palette, of the rainbow!
Was he the child who had translated into water-colours this glassware?
See this bowl of fruit standing before the candle- stick with its flaming
I went from wall to wall. There were houses in railinged
gardens, which a child's vivacity had caught in the rich orange, pale
blue, brown and deep red of inspiration. I had only seen such modelled,
excellent compositions through quite a different medium, namely art
books such as the Mare's Gesellschaft of Berlin used to pub- lish, with
the finest reproductions of the great masters of water-colour. This
un- restricted child art, springing as it were from the very depths,
was however more palpable, a direct translation into water- colour still
saturated with unspoilt impres- sions.
For a few decades I have been friendly with a painter whose
bright, melodically beautiful works in oils and water-colours have surrounded
me for nearly fifteen years. She accompanied me, agreeing that it was
one of the most beautiful exhibitions we had seen: "the' young Mozart,
the young Mendelssohn, transformed into colours and preserved for posterity."
We came again, congratulated the parents, particularly the
father, who- was himself a painter and teacher, and had let the phenomenon
of his child unfold itself; spontaneously without 'interference, with-
out trying to influence it. When, however, he saw what was developing,
he did provide the best paper and brushes, and took pre- cautions to
avoid the bad effects on the boy's spontaneity of praise from his col-
leagues. I told him (and he knew it him- self) that this extraordinary
gift, this . complete mastery at a child's level, was' not necessarily
a lasting thing: it could pass away in the storms of adolescence. It
could manifest itself in technical or scientific achievement, or simply
in the duties of an average life. Nevertheless, this in no way altered
the fact that the walls of this room, hung with creations of pure beauty,
testified to the manifestation of artistic genius: "halb Kinderspiele,
halb Gott in Helen." Those visitors were clever, felt and understood
something about art, who had bought one of these pictures. "That's how
we imagined the effect of Palestine on us when we, in our youthful enthusiasm,
strove towards a Jewish renaissance." The painter Jaskiel nodded. He!
himself had come from the East, had lived and learned in towns now devastated,
in Dresden and Berlin, had then gone to Paris and fifteen years ago
"That is our Palestine," I said, taking leave, "not what
is going up in smoke out- side, set on fire by nationalism run wild
in a post-Hitler Widerwelt.",We regarded .one another thoughtfully and
went out into the street, Haifa's bright streets, to-day clouded by
a volcanic explosion from vandalistic ally bombed oil tanks -- just
before Easter, 1947.