Through portrait sculptures, reliefs and memorials sculpted in stone, wood and bronze, the work of Batia Lichansky, Israel’s first woman sculptor, expresses the pioneer Zionist spirit during the formative years of the State of Israel and its struggle for existence.
Batia Lichansky was born in 1901 in Malin, Ukraine, the youngest of four daughters of Shoshanna (1865–1944) and Meir Yonah (1862–1942) Lishansky. Her older siblings were Sarah (1884–1924), Golda (Rahel Yanait Ben-Zvi, 1886–1979) and Tamar (1892–1983). She immigrated to Palestine in 1910 with her mother. Immediately after World War I she began to study at the Bezalel Institute, where her teachers included Boris Shatz (1866–1932), Abel Pann (1883–1963) and Ze’ev Raban (1890–1970). Finding her studies unsatisfactory, she left at the end of the year and went to study at the Academy of Art in Rome. When the 1921 riots broke out Lichansky returned to Palestine, joined the labor brigade and settled on Kibbutz En-Harod in 1922. Before a year had passed the urge to create spurred her to travel to Berlin, where she studied art for three years. She then studied for a further three years at the Beaux Arts Academy in Paris.
Lichansky’s artistic style developed in two directions: realistic-naturalistic and expressionistic. She remained faithful to her own style, uninfluenced by the changes of style in Israeli art over the years.
Lichansky’s work comprises two aspects, the national and the personal. From the national perspective, her memorials, which are scattered throughout the country, express the life of the country throughout approximately half a century, commemorating events connected to the Jewish people. Her memorial Ukraine Massacres (1955–1957), in memory of the riots that broke out in Kishinev, Ukraine in 1903, depicts frightened Jews—men, women and children—fleeing for their lives. Commemorating the Three (1957–1959), located on Kibbutz Einat, and Work and Defense (1930–1937) on Kibbutz Huldah, commemorate not only the suffering but also the determination to settle the Land of Israel during the British Mandate period. They depict young people who gave their lives for their country.
The relief Ha’apalah (1985) on Kibbutz Gal-On, which commemorates the clandestine immigration of Jews who succeeded in fleeing Europe before the outbreak of World War II, shows a stream of refugees meeting Israelis who welcome them. Holocaust and Rebirth (1965–1968) on Kibbutz Nezer Sereni comprises a round space with a pile of basalt stones in the center—figures depicting exhaustion, despair, rescue and survival—from the midst of which breaks forth a wave of figures led by a man and a woman who symbolize the start of national rebirth. Three monumental memorials entitled Commemorating the Fallen, dedicated to those who were killed in the War of Independence, are located respectively at Kibbutz Kefar Yehoshua (1949–1953), Bet Keshet (1956–1958) and Kadouri (1957–1960). In each Lichansky depicted the sacrifice, heroism and comradeship of the fighters.
At the same time that the memorials were erected, Lichansky sculpted the busts of more than a hundred figures, including members of Bar Giora, members of Ha-Shomer, authors such as Joseph Hayyim Brenner (1881–1921; 1936), poet Yokheved Bat-Miriam (1936), painter Annie Neuman (1906–1955; 1943), dancer Tehila Ressler (1934), Presidents Izhak Ben-Zvi (1884–1963; 1955) and Chaim Herzog (1918–1997; 1985), prime ministers David Ben-Gurion (1886–1973; 1960), Menahem Begin (1913–1992; 1979) and Golda Meir (1986) and Tel Aviv mayors Meir Dizengoff (1861–1936), David Bloch (1884–1947; 1946) and Yehoshua Rabinowitz (1911–1979; 1973).
The personal aspect of Lichansky’s work is evident in the busts of members of her family: her mother (1933), her father (1945), her sisters Sarah Lishansky, one of the founders of the Histadrut’s health fund (1941), Rahel Yanait Ben-Zvi, wife of President Izhak Ben-Zvi (1980), Tamar Scheu (1981), a physician and the founder of the Asthma Institute in Jerusalem, and sculptures of the younger generation of her family such as Eli (1930) and Yael (1964). Between 1923 and 1935 she produced miniatures and many sketches which deal with the human image, expressing humanity, physical gestures, feeling and thought.
In 1982 Lichansky contributed thirty of her works to a permanent exhibit at the Shomer Museum in Kefar Giladi. She later added other works to it, making it the largest collection of her works. After her death the home in Tel Aviv where she lived and worked became a gallery where some of her prints, miniatures, paintings and sketches are shown.
Lichansky won the Tel Aviv-Jaffa Municipality’s Dizengoff Prize twice, in 1944 and in 1957, and was declared a Worthy of Tel Aviv in 1986 for “her contribution to society and the state through her life’s work, the fruit of untiring labor in modesty and under indescribably difficult conditions. Her exemplary life in the creation of artistic sculpture, perpetuating Jewish and Israeli, human and ethical values, are an inseparable part of the pioneer spirit and the deeds of those who built this country.”
Batia Lichansky died in Tel Aviv in 1992.
SELECTED WORKS BY BATIA LICHANSKY
Lament. 1923–1925; Grief. 1923–1925; Agony. 1929.
Artist’s Mother. 1933; David Ben-Gurion. 1960; Izhak Ben-Zvi. 1955; Rahel Yanait Ben-Zvi. 1980.
Commemorating the Fallen. 1956–1958; Holocaust and Rebirth. 1965–1968.
Nightmare. 1926; Embrace. 1929; Embarrassment. 1954; Motherhood. 1969.
Epstein, Ariela. Batia Lichansky. Tel Aviv: 1988; Holocaust and Rebirth Memorial: The Monument in Netser Sereni by Batia Lichansky. Ramat Gan: 1969.
How to cite this page
Brutin, Batya. "Batia Lichansky." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on January 18, 2019) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/Lichansky-Batia>.