The Art of Steffa Reis The Art of Steffa Reis

The Art of Steffa Reis

A veteran Israeli artist based in Tel Aviv, Steffa Reis works in painting, drawing, and printing techniques, constantly moving between figuration and abstraction, the expressive and the lyrical, and between monochrome and enhanced coloration. Throughout the extensive body of her work, the local landscape affords her a central source of inspiration, a point of departure, and a main subject. Her art is a visual and emotional expression of the sights she has encountered, captured and etched in her memory. Many of her works are also influenced by classical music, ever present in her studio and painting process.

Born in Berlin in 1931, Steffa Reis had to flee Nazi Germany as a young child, and together with her parents found safe haven in England. The family settled in Liverpool, where she completed her education. During her high school years, she joined the Habonim Zionist Youth Movement and in 1949, she attended a Zionist seminar in Israel; the newly founded Jewish state left a deep impression. Upon her return, she started to draw and studied art and music in Paris and London. Following her marriage to a young doctor, Nicolas Daniel Reis, she accompanies his various British army postings in Europe and in the Middle East. She continued drawing and sketching throughout.

In 1957, the young couple and baby daughter emigrated to Israel and settled on Kibbutz Ein Harod in the Jezreel Valley. While her husband worked as a regional physician, she studied painting with two well-known artists – Marcel Janco and Yaacov Wexler. During this time, she became fascinated with the local landscape and rendered its distinctive elements in numerous works.

The family (now with three daughters) moved to London in 1964, and Steffa Reis continued her art studies at the Royal Academy of London and the Harrow School of Art, while her husband specialized as an orthopedic surgeon.

With their return to Israel, the family settled in Safed, an historic town in Galilee, where Steffa Reis established her own studio and gallery in the renowned Artists Colony. She immortalized many locations of that picturesque town, both in black-and-white drawings, prints and paintings. Soon, she achieved recognition as a full-fledged artist and became a member of the Painters and Sculptors Association of Israel.

When she opened a second studio in Tel Aviv in 1980, she was already recognized as a prolific painter, having held numerous successful exhibitions in Israel and abroad. In 2010, she presented a substantial retrospective at the Tel Aviv Artists House and launched an accompanying, comprehensive book about her art. Her works are part of many public and private collections.

From the outset of her career, Steffa Reis was acquainted with French Art Informel, American Abstract Expressionism (gestural and color-field painting), and with the Lyrical Abstraction of Israel’s New Horizons group. Indeed, her motifs and styles sometimes echo these movements and their diverse offshoots; but in fact, she has not really associated herself with any school or trend, intent on forging an individual mode of her own, constantly developing and enhancing its singularity. Creating in oil, acrylic, watercolor, ink and pencil, she often combines various approaches and techniques in one and the same work. Especially remarkable is her masterful use of oil pastel, which she used in both a graphic and a painterly way, exploring the interrelations between line, form, and stain.

Particular events and experiences have inspired her to create the following thematic series: “Golan ’73,” in the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War; “Berlin Memorial,” in the wake of her return to the city of her birth; “Transcriptions from Dance Images,” reflecting her fascination with dance and choreography; “Reflections on Else Lasker-Schüler,” following her encounter with the persona and work of that poetess; and “Cyphers,” after visiting the enigmatic ruins of ancient Greek temples.

Involved in music all her life, Steffa Reis paints to the sweeping sounds of classical music and strives, in her creative world, to achieve its spiritual essence. Music is an important guiding dynamic in her work. In her own words: “My concern with the structure and movement of music, as an expressive force, is an important element in my art… where its dynamics act as a catalyst.”

  • Emek Landscape, 1985, acrylic on canvas, 46x65, Private Collection

    Emek Landscape, 1985, acrylic on canvas, 46x65 cm, Private Collection

  • Untitled, 1982, oil on canvas, 97x130, Collection of Mishkan Museum of Art, Ein Harod

    Untitled, 1982, oil on canvas, 97x130 cm, Collection of Mishkan Museum of Art, Ein Harod

  • Abstract, 1986, mixed media on paper, 50x70

    Abstract, 1986, mixed media on paper, 50x70 cm

  • Abstract, 1982, oil pastel on paper, 42x48 cm

    Abstract, 1982, oil pastel on paper, 42x48 cm

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