Sabbath on the Kibbutz
Yohanan Simon was the painter most highly regarded by the Hakibbutz Ha’artzi movement, of which he was a member; he was also the chief graphic designer for the Hashomer Hatzair movement and for the Mapam political party. Simon, who had been brought up in a bourgeois household in Berlin and came to live on a kibbutz relatively late in life, often painted children and parents there during moments dedicated to the nuclear family unit, rather than to the collective, and depicted kibbutz life in an idyllic manner.
In Sabbath on the Kibbutz, parents and children are shown at leisure. Anonymous kibbutz members stand in the background, while the family at the center of the image appears as a separate compositional unit. The physical contact between the parents and their children emphasizes the pivotal importance that Simon attributed to the family – even within the context of the kibbutz, whose ideological foundations rejected many aspects of the bourgeois concept of family. The central positioning of the family, against a backdrop composed of kibbutz members and of the local landscape, is typical of the meticulously constructed compositions Simon created during this period.
The clouds and the trees on both sides of the composition form an internal frame of sorts. Seen together, the people, the animals, and the landscape constitute a harmonious, unified image that underscores the connection between man and nature. The figures are sturdy, and their black contours endow them with a monumental, voluminous appearance. The stains of blue color, the white shirts, and the white horses in the background stand out in contrast to the composition's warm palette.
The image of a father holding his son upwards also appears in other paintings by Simon. Tali Tamir, in her book Yohanan Simon: Double Image (exhibition catalogue, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2001) regards the lifting of the child as a ceremonial gesture that recalls the ritual raising of corn sheaves during the summer harvest festival on the kibbutz, and which can be associated with a religious offering.