Selected Works

Moshe Castel was born in 1909 in Jerusalem. Moshe grew up in the Bukharim neighborhood, where he attended his father’s school. At the age of 13, he was accepted to the Bezalel Art School, directed by Boris Schatz, where he studied from 1921-1925. His teacher, Shmuel Ben-David, encouraged him to study art in Paris.
Castel arrived in Paris in 1927, where he attended Academie Julien and Ecole du Louvre. He sat in the Louvre copying the works of Rembrandt, Velasquez, Delacroix, and Courbet, intrigued by their paint-layering techniques. It was here that he began to realize that “art is not symbolic, but rather material, the material is the main thing, the way the paint is placed, the way the layers are placed on the picture, this is the most essential thing.”
In Paris he used the backdrop of the street scenes for his subject matter and exhibited his paintings in the salons of Paris. In May 1927, the World Union of Hebrew Youth in Paris sponsored his first exhibit. Ze’ev Jabotinsky, who was in Paris at the time, wrote an introduction for the catalogue.
After 13 years of work in Paris, he returned to Israel in 1940 and settled in Safed.
He became famous for his work using basalt found in the black rock, which is indigenous to several areas of Israel. Many of his paintings are characterized by his creation of what appears to be an ancient form of writing. These symbols are painted in relief utilizing the black rock material. His portraits and street scenes often possess a Spanish influence, probably based on his Castilian Sephardic heritage. The strong reds, greens and blacks are indicative of this phase of his paintings.
In the 1930s and 1940s, many of Castel’s paintings depicted the lives of Sephardic Jews in the Holy Land, revealing the influence of Persian miniatures.
In 1946, Castel was awarded the Dizengoff Prize by the Tel-Aviv Municipality. He won the “Premier do Estado” prize at the São Paulo Art Biennial in Brazil.
In 1947, Castel helped to found the “New Horizons” group together with Yosef Zaritsky, Yehezkel Streichman, Marcel Janco and others. As a member of the New Horizons group, he combined elements of abstract European art with Eastern motifs and “Canaanite art.”
From the 1950s on, Castel created relief paintings inspired by the “ancient predecessors of Hebrew civilization.” In 1948, he visited the ruins of an ancient synagogue in Korazin, an ancient Jewish town in the Galilee. Inspired by the basalt blocks he saw there, engraved with images and ornaments, he began to use ground basalt, which he molded into shapes, as his basic material. The technique utilized ground basalt rock mixed with sand and glue, infused with the rich colors that became his trademark. The works were embellished with archaic forms derived from ancient script, symbolism and mythological signs from Hebrew and Sumerian culture.
In 1955, a solo exhibition of Castel works was mounted at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. His murals hang in the Knesset, Binyanei HaUma Convention Center, Rockefeller Center in New York, and the official residence of the President of Israel in Jerusalem.
From 1959 Castel spent his time between Paris, New York and Israel. Castel died in 1992.
The Moshe Castel Museum of Art, in a building designed by Israeli architect David Resnik overlooking the desert landscape, opened in Ma’aleh Adumim in 2010.