Itshak Holtz, a realist artist whose iconic paintings of Jewish scenes adorn thousands of homes, as well as art galleries and museums, passed away Friday, December 21, 2018. He was 93.
Born in Skiernewice, Poland in 1925, Holtz had a passion for art from the age of five. After studying in art academies in Jerusalem and New York, Holtz embarked on an artistic career that would span more than a half-century.
During his lifetime, he was called the greatest living Jewish artist, with his paintings commanding six-figure sums, by far the costliest and most sought-after of any Jewish artist.
“When I heard about his passing, it felt like a stab in the heart,” said Eli Frucht, an artist and collector of Holtz’s work, “He brought out the beauty of Jerusalem in the greatest way.”
Holtz’s paintings owe much of their popularity to the realism they convey, with scenes depicting ranges of emotions and Jewish scenes with an authenticity rarely expressed on canvas.
Perhaps his most well-known painting is a depiction of an Esrog market in New York’s Lower East Side, which adorns thousands of sukkahs annually.
“Itshak Holtz will forever hold a special place in my heart,” said Moshe Frank, of Leviim Art Gallery in Brooklyn. “His paintings are what drew me in to the world of Judaica art. The first painting I ever purchased was a Holtz.”
“People feel they can relate to his paintings,” said Frank. “Holtz truly brought Judaism alive, and he will be missed enormously in the Judaica art community.”
In his lifetime, Holtz was featured in multiple group shows and galleries in addition to being featured in one-man shows in New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Jerusalem.
He was honored with the Academic of Italy Gold Medal (1981), Italy’s University de le Arti Terme Diploma of Merit (1982), the International Parliament for Safety and Peace’s Gold Medal for Artistic Merit (1985) and four awards from New York’s Arts Interaction (1989-1991), in addition to serving as a judge for the Arts Interaction 13th Annual Autumn Show at Gallery 12 (1991).
Holtz was laid to rest on Friday morning. He is survived by his wife Ruth, a son and a daughter.
Leviim Art Gallery of Brooklyn, NY announced today that they will host a memorial exhibition of Holtz’s paintings on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 7 pm at 271 Kingston Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11213.