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Anna Ticho's house museum and art exhibition in Jerusalem

I have always liked the idea of an artist’s work being shown in the family home that the artist once lived in. Consider, for example, Rembrandt’s home in Amsterdam, Durer’s home in Nuremberg or Ruben’s home in Antwerp. The idea of a house-museum seems more authentic than a multi-artist, multi-era gallery built decades after the artist’s death.

Anna Ticho (1894-1980) was born in Moravia, now Czech Rep­ublic. Anna moved with her parents to Vienna at 15, and studied draw­ing at an art school directed by a Czech artist. She was in the right place at the right time! Pre-WW1 Vienna was still the glittering capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and was the beating heart of the art world. Ticho loved contemporary art­ists such as Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka, from the avant-garde Sec­es­s­ionist group. And she could visit galleries like the Albertina as often as she wanted, to see paintings by German Renaissance artist Albrecht Durer and Flemish Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel. She was exposed to both the traditional, classical art of Europe and to C20th excitement.

Three years later, in 1912, she was travelling to Palestine to be with first cousin opthal­mologist Dr Albert Ticho. Anna married Albert just be­fore war broke out, and moved to Damas­cus with her husband where he served as an Austrian Army doctor and she as his assistant. Dr Ticho was discharged after war ended.

The Tichos managed to find their way back to Palestine a year or so after the end of the war and in 1924 they acquired the building that now houses Anna Ticho’s works. This large house, originally built in 1864 by a prominent Ottoman family, was and is surrounded by gard­ens. The Jerusalem house had to be comfortable and elegant because they hosted local and British government officials, artists, writers, academics and intellectuals. The Tichos were always active in Jerusal­em’s social and cultural life, including involvement in the Bezalel Art School. 

Ticho House and garden

Ticho House galleries

Ticho House museum collection

Besides assisting her husband in his medical duties, Ticho found time to travel around the country, to capture some of the country’s scenery. This was interest­ing since the Israeli land­scape could not be more physic­ally and cult­ur­ally different from Brno’s and Vienna’s. So it took her a while to adapt to the very diff­erent natural light & colours of the Levant.

I am assuming she connected to her new home in a biblically hist­orical context and not via religious commands. The Israel Museum noted that Ticho depicted Jerusalem as “a dead and desolate city, a far cry from the ‘navel of the world’, holy to three religions.”

They lived far away from the world’s major art centres, but Ticho did take other cultural influences on board. And they mixed with every travelling artist arriving in British Pal­estine. Her works were first shown at the historic exhibition of local artists at David’s Tower in the Old City of Jerusalem in the early 1920s.

Pride of place was given in her new home to drawings she had brought from Vienna’s young and talented artists: Klimt, Schiele and Kokoschka. They converted the lower storey into an eye clinic. Anna was busy running her husband’s medical practice and running the home, so there didn’t seem to be as much time for art as she would have liked.

Eventually her drawings of figures and Jerusalem landscape were done from nature, using the familiar hills, rocks and olive trees as source material. Perhaps the barren Jerusalem landscape encouraged Ticho to turn to sketching and water colours, not oils. The stony Judean Hills, treeless and human-free, lent themselves to her austere sketches.

Despite living in the Levant, Anna made several successful trips back to Europe and also exhibited in the USA. Her atten­t­ion to detail was central in Ticho’s best known works. Old City of Jerusalem, a graphite drawing from 1934, was also very precise and detailed creation.

Only later did Ticho focus on solitude and eternity, depicting olive trees, houses and aging people. She drew the maze of rooftops of the houses of the Old City stretching to the horizon above their opaque win­dows, creating a delicate interplay between stones and windows interwoven with domed roofs. She moved to earthy tones.

Ticho, Old Jerusalem
Etching, 13 x 15 cm

Ticho, Portrait of a Bearded Man
Watercolour, 61x47cm

In the 1940s and 1950s, the influence on Ticho of the avant-garde time in Vienna emerged. Schiele in particular influenced the way she worked on her line drawings. In this era she fav­oured a naturalistic approach, employing shading and flowing lines, and leaving areas of the page untouched, but as an integral part of the composition.

Her beloved husband’s death was in 1960. Afterwards, Anna continued to live and work in the same house until her own death in 1980. Toward the end of her own life, Anna bequeathed the house, the library, her art collection and her husband's extensive Judaica collection to the City of Jerusalem for use as a public art gallery.

And it’s not just Ticho’s own work on display. Today part of the Israel Museum, it also houses temporary exhibitions by other artists. "A Room of Her Own", for example, was an ex­hibition of women in portraiture from the C19th on. And the Israel Museum wanted ex­hib­­itions that covered a range of media, including painting, photo­gr­aphy and video to explore issues of living spaces and women in art.

The exhibition “Lifescape: The Work of Anna Ticho” currently fills most of the gallery’s ground floor and will be on dis­play until mid March 2019. Curated by Timna Seligman, the exhibition chronicles Ticho’s experiences and cultural bagg­age, in Brno, in Vienna and in Jerusalem. It is her story, but it reflects on the much wider story of the Jewish people, immigration, and the creation of the state of Israel within her lifetime.

Read the book “Lifescape: The Work of Anna Ticho” by Timna Seligman.

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