Artist, Author, and Illustrator
The son of an author, Nachum Gutman was born in Bessarabia and moved to Eretz Yisrael as a child. He grew up in Yaffo, opposite the sand dunes later to become Tel Aviv, and these locales dominate his landscapes. He was one of the first children to live in the new city of Tel Aviv, and this influential childhood experience is recounted in his books A Small City with Few People and Between Sands and Blue Skies .
Gutman served in the Jewish Legion in World War I, and then went to Europe to continue his education in art that he had begun at Bezalel; he returned to Eretz Yisrael in 1926. Influenced by Henri Rousseau and Matisse, his paintings exhibit a sense of innocence and nostalgia for life in the early days of the Yishuv*. Gutman worked primarily in oils, gouaches, and water colors. His oil paintings are known for their large blocks of pure, unmixed color, and his water colors are clear, evoking a transparency akin to the innocence he wished to convey. Gutman is also famous for his illustration of Bialik poems and for mosaics he designed in Tel Aviv: in the Shalom Tower, the Chief Rabbinate Building, and the old City Plaza.
Gutman began his work as a children's illustrator in the 1920's, and he continued to work in children's literature throughout his career. For thirty-two years he illustrated a children's weekly, and frequently included stories of his own. As an author he is simple and direct, displaying a cheerful, optimistic view of life. Gutman explained that he strove to excite in his young readers a curiosity about the world around them and to encourage them to use their imagination, particularly in order to see the hidden wonder in the commonplace. Gutman was one of the first authors to write for children in Hebrew, and for his contribution to children's literature, a field which he helped launch, he was awarded the Israel Prize in 1978.