CPI Mourns Gershon Knispel, 86, Devoted Communist & Social Artist

The Communist Party of Israel (CPI) mourns the death of the renowned plastic artist and communist militant, Gershon Knispel, one of the great local practitioners of Socialist Realism in the plastic arts, who died at dawn on September 7 in Haifa after 86 years of life and struggle. Knispel was a member of the CPI from 1954 until his last day.

A spokesperson for the CPI has said: “Knispel must be remembered for the commitment and mission he always had in defense of a more just world, and his dedication to humanism, peace and socialism. We are going to miss him.”

Gershon Knispel in his studio in São Paulo

Gershon Knispel in his studio in São Paulo (Footage: Youtube)

The artist was born in Germany, and divided his life between Israel and Brazil, where he first arrived in Rio de Janeiro in 1957, after winning a contest for the design of the antenna of the Tupi TV station. Knispel’s winning proposal was to adorn it with the standards pre-colonial peoples.

In Brazil, Knispel met the architect Oscar Niemayer, with whom he developed a long friendship and professional partnership. Knispel became deeply involved in the Brazilian artistic milieu and created sculptures and murals in public areas in several cities. In 1964, in the wake of the military coup, Knispel fled the country in danger of his life, returning to Haifa.

In addition to drawings and paintings, the artist created sculptures and low reliefs in public areas that are scattered throughout Haifa. There he taught art at Shahar Ha’Alya migrant camp and at public schools in the towns of Kiryat Atta and Nesher, and was appointed art director. The results of the work of these years display figures of workers, unemployed and emigrants. They depict scenes from the world of work and political demonstrations. In paintings marked by realism and intense colors, he portrayed Jews and Arabs. Knispel returned to São Paulo in 1995 and, since then, alternated residing in both Brazil and Israel.

For the Vice President and National Secretary for International Relations of the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), Walter Sorrentino, Knispel was “first and foremost a communist. Until the end of his life he was uncompromising in defending the peace and settlement of two states – Israel and Palestine – with their peoples living in harmony. He was critical of the Israeli right which made this peace process unfeasible.”

According to Sorrentino, during the period (1958-1964) during which the artist lived in Brazil, he “made an enormous contribution” to Brazilian culture by sharing activities at the UNE’s Popular Culture Center and collaborated “with the best names of national culture, such as Oscar Niemeyer and Gianfrancesco Guarnieri, our party comrades, Vilanova Artigas, Jorge Amado and many others. Gershon’s contribution in this sense is indelible.”

“I had great friendship and admiration for him. He dedicated an impressive work to the national headquarters of the Communist Party of Brazil in 2003. Gershon had received unpublished poems by Bertold Brecht, donated by the poet’s widow, which he then illustrated in a series of twelve engravings of great dramatic force. It was something that impressed us all and will always remain in our memory,” said Sorrentino.