Nachman Libeskind: The Artist

Art emanates from different sources in different artists. Some artistic impulses are a means of self expression, others a wellspring of pent up emotions, others yet, are a historical record of a life rich in experiences. For Nachman Libeskind art was the embodiment of all these, combined with his intense sensibility for color and light, and love of music and nature.

Deprived of a possibility to express himself on canvas for much of his life by circumstances beyond his control, Libeskind approached his artistic discovery with the zeal and exuberance of youth. Starting with magic markers to experiment with lines and colors, he quickly moved on to felt collages. These intricately cut strips, swatches and tidbits of felt were fitted in an uncannily precise hand to form images reminiscent of Picasso. No doubt, they reflect to some degree his origins in Poland’s leading textile manufacture city- Lodz.

The collages were soon followed by oils and gouaches, but the brilliance and quick drying properties of acrylics won him over. Why should speed be a factor in one’s artistic pursuits? Libeskind was a virtual fountain of ideas for images he thirsted to put on canvas—given his late start at age 72, time was of the essence.

Some may wonder how this octogenarian mustered the energy that was surely required to complete his nearly two hundred paintings. It was interesting to watch Libeskind approach a new piece of art. For starters, amazingly, he rarely-if-ever sketched his images. Most days they flowed unimpeded in a direct path from his brain, to his hand, to canvas. They seemed almost to be fully formed in his head, waiting eagerly to tumble out, only to be meticulously shaped and tamed by his precise lines.

By far, his most essential element, a requirement above all else, was light. There is good reason why he produced almost all of the works in his Florida winter home. There, the brilliant sun and blue sky served as catalysts and inspiration for his daily routine. Libeskind was prolific in his work because he was so well disciplined. For him there were no lazy days on the beach. As soon as he awoke and took his equally disciplined breakfast, he turned on his music, another requisite ingredient for work, and embarked on a four to five hour session of painting.

Once the paintings were completed, his most important goal was to have them exhibited as widely as possible. Since he thought of each painting as one of his children, he was not interested in selling, or commercial pursuits. He simply wanted people to see the world through his paintings, as he saw it—a world full of color, energy, beauty and hope. More than anything else he wanted to convey an understanding that humans can grow throughout their entire lives; that there is no age at which options, imagination, or dreams must end.