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Aryeh Navon: The First Caricaturist in Eretz Israel / קו ההיסטוריה: אריה נבון - הראשון לציירי הקריקטורות

שלמה שבא, אריה נבון and Shlomo Shva
Kesher / קשר
No. 8 (נובמבר 1990), pp. 80-84
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23902886
Page Count: 5
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Abstract

Aryeh Navon was the first caricaturist to be permanently employed by a newspaper in Eretz Israel — Davar, where he produced thousands of caricatures over a 30-year period. He achieved excellence early, drawing aggressive, provocative sketches that both amused and angered, which is the classic caricaturist's task. He was a talented artist who recorded a tumultuous, heroic period of history. Born in Russia in 1909, he arrived in Palestine with his parents in 1919. Two older brothers were artists and caricaturists, and Aryeh showed artistic talent from a young age. Educated at a commercial school, which his parents hoped would lead to an accountancy career, Aryeh chose art instead and studied at the Histadrut-sponsored studio founded by the artist Yitzhak Frankel. He taught caligraphy and drew caricatures which were published in various occasional humor magazines. The dailies in Eretz Israel during that period did not publish caricatures because of the expense involved. The exception was Ittamar Ben Avi, the ambitious editor of Do'ar Ha-Yom ("The Daily Mail"), who patterned his paper on the London newspapers. He was enthusiastic about Navon's caricatures and published several of them. Ben Avi had a fertile imagination and would attach his own captions to Navon's caricatures to suit his point of view. Navon, who identified with the Labor camp, sometimes discovered that his caricatures conveyed the opposite message from what he had intended, for Ben Avi was a Jabotinsky supporter. Navon was introduced to Berl Katznelson, editor of Davar, who liked his work and in 1933 asked him to become the paper's permanent caricaturist. Navon drew two or three caricatures a week, and was the only permanent newspaper caricaturist in the country until the late 1930s. During the 1940s, Davar readers would turn to Navon's caricature first when reading the Friday edition. That, and Natan Alterman's "Seventh Column," were weapons which the yishuv used to fight the Mandate authorities. Many of the caricatures were censored, and the authorities even closed down the newspaper once as a punishment for publishing one of Navon's caricatures. Navon excelled at the unexpected element, which is the caricaturist's most important device. With that, he was a highly skilled artist, and sometimes the artistic impact of his sketches alone constituted the surprise element. He defined the successful caricature as having a balance of three elements: the subject, the twist and the artistic execution. He would begin his day at one of the artists' coffee shops in Tel Aviv, where he read the morning papers. Coffee shops were where caricatures, articles and poems were conceived at that time. Sometimes the right idea would come then and there, but usually it required a good deal of thought. He would list possible subjects, and eventually choose one. Or, he would bring the list to Managing Editor Zalman Shazar and consult with him. Katznelson, though not involved in the day-to-day management of the paper, took a keen interest in Navon's caricatures, and, like the rest of the staff, Navon admired him greatly. Katznelson later helped select the caricatures that were collected in the five published volumes of Navon's work. During World War II, Navon's work became more intense and somber. He did only one caricature a week, published in the Friday edition. In those days, copies of the paper would be posted outside the Histadrut building and the offices of the newspaper, and people would crowd around to glimpse and discuss the caricature. After World War II, the anti-British nature of his caricatures became sharper, and the censor would often disqualify them. Navon's challenge was to camouflage this content, and one of his most workable solutions was to transpose the situation to a Biblical context. Some of his most unforgettable caricatures were produced during the War of Independence — for example, a newborn baby in its crib defending itself against wolves, and Little Red Riding Hood on the beseiged road to Jerusalem bringing food to her grandmother. He created the popular figure of the little Israeli waring a knitted army hat, representing the new state. He went to the front lines to capture the fighters' milieu, and continued recording the country's problems and developments until 1964, when, after 30 years, he discontinued doing caricatures and took up drawing and set design. In addition to being the first caricaturist in the country, he was the first comics artist, producing the Uri-Muri series with author Leah Goldberg for the children's edition of Davar. He also sketched portraits, landscapes and cityscapes, utilizing a minimalist style to capture the essence of each subject. His work was exhibited in group and one-man shows. In addition, he designed sets for the Cameri and other theaters. Navon was recognized as a central figure both in the country's journalistic world and in its art world.

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