Biography of Alexander Aizenshtat
Alexander Aizenshtat was born in Moscow, Russia, in 1951. He enjoyed painting from early age and started developing his art skills when he was sixteen.
The first painting which struck him as a child, “The feast of Esther” by Rembrandt, he saw on a postcard in his grandparents’ house. During his school years Alexander wasn’t a very enthusiastic student, he didn’t learn much from the lessons and eventually stopped attending classes. His mother, who taught in his school, did everything she could to help him graduate.
Instead of going to a regular school, he attended the art school named after V. A. Serov and at that time he met a watercolor artist S. P. Skulsky whose pupil he became.
Alexander frequently visited The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and spend there most of his time as a boy, and it was there that he learnt to admire Van Gogh and Rembrandt.
Alexander said that he wanted to understand what was so special about those paintings that they should be displayed in the museums.
When Alexander was young, his parents ignored his passion for art, they wanted him to receive a proper education in a renowned university, like they did, and a stable profession --- his aspiration to become an artist was out of question. He, on the other hand, found his parents’ vision of his future stifling. He sought a higher understanding of life and art. The disagreements between them led to Alexander leaving Moscow for Israel.
He first lived in the northern city of Safed where he worked for an art gallery. The gallery provided him with a studio to work in, art supplies and a salary but its commercial nature didn’t suit him and he soon left, though on amicable terms. Alexander wanted to prioritize his passion and effort over money and client relations. From Safed he moved to kibutz Mahanaim where he worked in the fields. He then served in the army where he first discovered his identity as a Jew. Gradually, he became religious.
After a few years in Israel, he moved to Europe where he met Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik in Switzerland. Rabbi Soloveichik eventually introduced him to a Parisian woman, Sonia, who became his wife. Together they lived in Paris for a couple years and there he studied the Talmud and made a living by selling his paintings.
From Paris they moved to Jerusalem. As the family grew, Alexander focused on painting over study and travelled to London, Paris and New York to sell his works. In New York, he collaborated with an art gallery which purchased all his works.
In 1989 he decided to establish a Talmudic yeshiva in a rural village east of Moscow and for fifteen years he didn’t draw or paint anything.
In 2002, after the yeshiva was well-established, Alexander began to paint in his little room there. Though occupied with teaching the young boys in the yeshiva during the day, he would paint in the evenings and the early hours of the morning. For the last ten years he has been painted full-time in his Moscow studio, only visiting the yeshiva on weekends.
Alexander’s early paintings have mainly disappeared and we can only learn about them what Aizenshtat tells us.
He believed that he had found a special way of drawing light out of darkness and most of his paintings were landscapes and portraits. He worked with pen and watercolor on paper and oil on canvas.
When Alexander returned to painting, he started first with acrylic on canvas and since 2006 he has been working mainly with oil on canvas and drawing with pen on paper.
Aizenshtat’s early art is purely figurative because in Moscow that was all he saw. In the Soviet Union, abstract art was not displayed publicly.
Irina Antonova, the president of Pushkin Museum, says the following about Aizenshtat’s method in one of her articles: “He could have chosen any path these days, but he, for example, didn’t go into abstract art, he didn’t leave the object, he remained within the frame of the real object, which nowadays is much more difficult to do than to work in other manners. I can’t find any parallel or correspondence to him yet. His artistic language is original, his manner doesn’t remind us of anyone’s - and therein lies his uniqueness. He has his own way.”
Today, Alexander works in his Moscow and Jerusalem studios. The art he produces is both figurative and abstract. He is constantly looking for new ways to express his thought, emotions and beliefs.