Restorer Eli Shaltiel has uncovered a mural painted over by Romanian-Israeli Dada artist Marcel Janco more than 50 years ago on a wall in his studio at the artists village of Ein Hod that he had founded in 1953 in northern Israel.
Shaltiel wasn’t relying on luck for his discovery, but he can be credited with diligence. The nearby Janco Dada Museum had found old photographs that showed murals on several walls of the studio, so he knew there should be something there somewhere. Starting with a speck that led to a line, Shaltiel kept peeling back the layers of paint and plaster until he had his mural.
For two years since sighting the photographs, curator of the Janco Dada Museum Raya Zommer-Tal headed a team of restorers that wasn’t always optimistic of finding any art treasures. "Actually we expected that there [wouldn’t] be any signs of the murals," she said, "because they were made 50 years ago and the walls were painted dozens of times since. So it's really a miracle that we could find traces of those wonderful murals."
A witness to atrocities in the pogroms in Romania during World War II, Janco turned militant and found a home in Tel Aviv where he quickly became a leader and champion of Zionist arts and crafts in what was then British Palestine, before Israel became an independent state in 1948 following the Arab-Israeli War.
The new nation turned to the multiple prize-winning artist-teacher to prospect the regions about Mount Carmel to delimit a national park. It was this work that brought him to the village of Ein Hod, deserted by Palestinian Arabs in their exodus during the war.
Janco obtained a lease on the place and rebuilt it on weekends with other Israeli artists. He became the site’s first mayor, where he created the protocols for a utopian society, art colony and tourist attraction.
Less and less a Dadaist, Janco became more of an abstract painter who had shows in Tel Aviv, Milan, Paris and Venice in the 1950s and 60s. He won the Israel Prize in 1967 for his work as a painter and remained a leading figure in Israeli arts and culture right up until his death in 1984.