Reprinted from Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia with permission of the author and the Jewish Women’s Archive.
Anna Ticho was born in Brno, Moravia (Czech Republic). In her early teens she moved with her family to Vienna where she took her first drawing lessons, later enrolling in art school. At the age of eighteen, Anna emigrated to Palestine and settled in Jerusalem. In November 1912 she married her cousin Dr. Abraham Albert Ticho (1883–1960), who had accepted an offer from the Frankfurt organization Lema’an Zion (For the Sake of Zion) to establish and head an eye clinic in Jerusalem. The couple had no children.
From the moment she arrived in the city in 1912 till the day she died in 1980, Anna Ticho lived in Jerusalem and lovingly portrayed it in paint, pen and ink, charcoal, pastel and pencil.
“I came to Jerusalem when it was still ‘virgin territory,’ with vast, breathtakingly beautiful vistas … I was impressed by the grandeur of the scenery, the bare hills, the large, ancient olives trees, and the cleft slopes … the sense of solitude and eternity,” she wrote to a friend in one of the few Ticho letters that have been preserved.
Beginnings in Art
Her first tentative pencil and pen-and-ink drawings were delicately linear renderings of the landscape that so captivated her. Customarily, she set out mornings, her easel slung over her shoulder, for the Old City, where she spent the day painting. This was a departure from the approach of the artists of the Bezalel Academy in Jerusalem, who were bound to the old images of the city and to the orientalist trend.
Up to the 1920s Jerusalem was shown as the lofty site of the Temple and the focus of pilgrims’ and orientalists’ aspirations. Depicted from the east, it was a world arising from the desert, celestial and elusive. Jerusalem was seen from the Mount of Olives facing the Temple Mount, the Western Wall or the Dome of the Rock. During the twenties, artists began to turn a more prosaic eye on the city, viewing it from the Sultan’s Pool, Mount Zion and a variety of vantage points. These artists lived in the city and lived the city.
Anna Ticho, too, began to focus on the urban landscape and the intricacies of its stony textures, uninhabited–in her work thus far–by any human forms. Her line during this period is short and fine, each detail accented, with an expressiveness evoking some of the artists whose work she had encountered during her early years in Vienna: Albrecht Dürer and Pieter Brueghel, and her contemporaries, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and Oskar Kokoschka.
True to the Romantic tradition Ticho continued to treat subjects such as dissolution and abandonment, depicting 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, all executed with academic, Viennese precision. Light and shade sketch intriguing passages between the different parts of the picture.
Anna Ticho’s vision of Jerusalem is singular and personal rather than historical-symbolic. Yet she adheres to a long tradition of Temple Mount paintings in her cypress trees, which sometimes stand in for towers and minarets. The timeless symbol of the Wall fades away as Ticho melds tradition with personal vision and feeling.
Anna Ticho’s Jerusalem works link her to an age-old tradition of artists who depicted the city as a sacred ideal. In addition to its holy sites, many artists went on to paint its landscape, vegetation and inhabitants in their various styles of ethnic dress, way of life, and religious practice.
In the mid-nineteenth century artists began to go beyond the formal system of symbols rooted in religious-folk tradition. The city–and its vistas–began to expand.
In the thirties and forties Ticho turned to trees and foliage, meticulously delineating the precise textures and convolutions of each rough, gnarled tree ring, trunk and branch. And above the treetops, with each leaf lovingly portrayed, rose the surrounding landscape.
So specific is each leaf that although these works are done in black-and-white, there is a strong sense of the vivid green of the young leaves and the deep green of the thick, mature ones. Many of these trees spring up from among the stones which were to become one of the trademarks of Ticho’s work.
Anna Ticho’s relation to Jerusalem is vividly expressed in her landscapes: bare, rocky hills, stones, old trees and faces–the lined topography of its people, all comprise her picture of the windswept, rocky, inexorably terrestrial city.
In Jerusalem, the young European artist found a world apart from the one she had left behind in Vienna. The meeting with the East–its landscape, colors and smells–enchanted her. In the faces of the people she encountered–beggars on the street, or patients who came to the clinic of her husband, the renowned ophthalmologist, she saw the city that was now her home. Faces like cleft rock or tree trunks ringed with age became one with nature in Anna Ticho’s personal vision.
The 1960s marked a turning point in Anna Ticho’s art. Jerusalem remained its central theme, but its depiction changed noticeably. Precise black-and-white drawing yielded to large-format renderings in rich pastel tones of warm brown. Short, tentative, detailed delineation gave way to bold, sweeping lines and color patches. The young, aspiring Viennese seeking her way through the strange streets and winding alleyways became the confident, seasoned, worldly artist. Ticho stayed in the studio, executing her views of Jerusalem from memory and from the landscape etched in her own heart. Moving beyond the houses of the city, she soared over its outlying hilly expanses into the infinity of the horizon. In nearly abstract terms, she conveyed Jerusalem’s timeless quality.
Every line she drew conveyed Anna Ticho’s love of Jerusalem. She felt an obligation toward the city she had grown up with, arriving as a young woman and ending her days there at the age of eighty-six. The Jerusalem she had come to was a sleepy backwater of the Ottoman Empire that became a cosmopolitan headquarters of the British mandatory government and finally the capital of the reborn State of Israel in 1948, growing dramatically with an impetus that has hardly subsided to this day.
From her first small, hesitant sketches to her forceful renditions in her own special earthy coloration, Anna Ticho’s art, like Jerusalem itself, hovers between symbol and reality.
Her works were first shown at the historic exhibition of local artists at David’s Tower in the Old City of Jerusalem in 1922 and later in many solo exhibitions in Israel and abroad where they have been widely acclaimed. She was a co-founder of the New Bezalel School, today the Bezalel Academy of Art, Jerusalem and the recipient of many honorary titles and awards, among them the Art Prize of the City of Jerusalem, 1965; designated an Honorary Citizen of Jerusalem in 1970; the Sandberg Prize of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; and, shortly before her death in 1980, the Israel Prize. She bequeathed her beloved home, Ticho House, to the Israel Museum to be used as a museum and site for exhibitions and cultural events for the benefit of the citizens of Jerusalem.