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 candles!.
  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 come here.
   "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.