CatalogAboutThe WebsiteMain
1897Mendel Schmidt (Menachem Shemi) born 15 December in Bobruisk, Belarus.
1910Moves to live with his grandfather in the capital, Minsk, due to his mother's tuberculosis.
1912-1913 Studies at the Odessa Academy of Arts.
1913 Leaves Russia following his mother's death and arrives in Jerusalem to become a student and member of the commune at the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts. Initiates, along with his friend Joseph Levin, a rebellion against the school's management.
1914 Recovers from malaria In February. Contacts with Bezalel severed. August – outbreak of World War I.
1915 Goes to Rehovot, an agricultural colony, to work for the farmers. There he meets other Bezalel students who were sent by the school to work due to the harsh economic situation. Meets Rivka Zavin (born in Kherson, Ukraine 18.3.1898, died in Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael, 9.2.1983) whose family immigrated to Eretz Israel in 1906 and settled in Rehovot (her father, a scholar, worked as a baker and managed a kitchen for the pioneer labourers).
1916 Returns to Jerusalem and is caught by the Turkish authorities who intend to send him to Damascus to enlist in the Turkish Army. By intervention of Bezalel director Boris Schatz, remains in Jerusalem as a labourer in aid of the Turks – first as a stonemason, then as assistant to a housing engineer working on renovating government buildings. After seven months' service, Shemi is hospitalized with serious dysentery. Rivka helps him escape from the hospital to Rehovot, dressed in woman's clothes.
1917 Marries Rivka Zavin in April. Fearing the Turks, who consider Shemi a deserter, the young couple moves to Meskha in southern Galilee, returning to Rehovot following the British occupation of south Palestine.
1918 Enlists in the Jewish Legion. Daughter Naomi born in Rehovot 15 December (an artist, she died in Kibbutz Ma'agan Michael, 20.2.1983).
1920 Demobilised from the Jewish Legion upon its disbandment in July and returns to Rehovot. In October, the family moves to Tiberias where Shemi is appointed part-time art teacher at an elementary school. Rivka teaches handicrafts.
1922 In October, the family moves to Haifa and takes up residence in Gideon Street. Shemi is appointed part-time art teacher at Elementary School A. Rivka teaches sewing and handicrafts.
1923 On 12 July, son Zeev is born (he was killed in a car accident near his kibbutz, Ma'agan Michael, 8.2.1963).
1926 On 29 May son Aharon is born (nicknamed Jimmy, killed in battle in the War of Independence, 19.10.1948).
1928 Publishes "On Eretz-Israelism in Painting (Brief Note)" in Ketuvim journal. In summer wins competition for creating scenery and costume for David's Crown at the Habima Theatre. August-October: first visit to Paris.
1929 Shemi family moves to apartment in Bialik Street, close to Haifa town hall. David's Crown wins praise during Habima's tour of Europe. In November, joins Egged Eretz Israel Artists group but does not participate in their exhibition.
1929-1930   Draws cartoons for two evening newspapers in Haifa.
1931 In the spring Marc Chagall visits Shemi at home, praising his works and encouraging him to visit Paris.
1931-1933  Artistic supervisor of the Festival of First
Fruits (Shavuot) directed by Moshe Halevi, held on the grounds of the Technion Institute and Reali School in Haifa.
1935 Publishes article "On the Art of Painting in Eretz Israel" in Gazith journal. Ceases intensive theatrical work and his frequent journeys to Tel Aviv, devotes time to painting in Acre.
1937 Writes to the management of the Tel Aviv Museum requesting the museum arrange a one-man exhibition for him. The response is favourable but Shemi retracts following disagreement on display space. July – October: second visit to Paris. Visits major exhibitions held there as part of the World Fair. Holds one-man exhibition at the Galerie Billiet, displaying paintings of the Acre period (landscapes and portraits) and two paintings done in Paris. Receives favourable reviews. Meets leading artists of the Ecole de Paris: Chagall, Soutine, Kremegne, Kikoïne, Mane-Katz, Dobrinsky, Aberdam and others.
1938 Publishes article in Gazith: "The Contemporary French Art of Painting: On Exhibition at the Petit Palais, Paris". End of January family moves to apartment at 6 Bezalel Street, Hadar Hacarmel in Haifa where he will live until his death. Wins the Dizengoff Prize and one of his landscapes is purchased by the Tel Aviv Museum. In June visits Kibbutz Hanita and documents the recently arrived settlers.
1941 Publishes an article in Gazith: "Our Course in Painting".
1942 Wins the Dizengoff Prize: his painting Tiberias Landscape is purchased by the Tel Aviv Museum. Publishes article in Gazith: "Landscape Painting in Eretz Israel". In October enlists into the British Army (Royal Engineers Company 745). Following training in Cairo sent to El Shat near Suez and is engaged in camp improvement duties.
1943 At El Shat, Shemi is assigned a tent, which serves as living quarters and studio. Devotes free time to painting military life and local scenery. Decorates the camp. In July the company moves to Benghazi, Libya. Shemi assists teachers at the local Jewish school by giving art lessons to children. Paints Jewish themes for the first time.
1944 Visits his family in February when on home leave. In April the company is transferred to Italy and is stationed in Benevento. Visits nearby Naples. In August visits Rome, liberated on 4 June. In September the company moves to Naples.
1945 During February, prepares scenery for Purim play set by his friend Simcha Eisen and decorates the camp for the holiday. In March visits Capri and Sorrento. Habima actress Hanna Rovina visits Italy in April, performing for the soldiers, views Shemi's exhibition in Rome and receives gift of landscape with women reaping. In May the company moves north, Shemi visits Tuscany and Florence; they camp in the Po Valley and reach Milan. In July, Shemi visits Venice and prepares many drawings. During August, travels to Paris by train to visit brother, Asher. August – September stays at army recreation camp on island near Venice and paints in Venice. In early December, returns to Palestine and on 22 December is demobilised from the British Army. On 25 December, a party in Shemi's honour is held by his friends at Café Cassit in Tel Aviv.
1946 Resumes teaching art at school. Teaches one evening a week at the Histadrut (General Federation of Labour) studio in Hechalutz Street, Haifa.
1947 Publication of A Soldier Returns to Eretz Israel, a book for teenagers prepared with Zvi Barmeir during their military service, illustrated by Shemi’s drawings. Birth of grandson Avner, Naomi's son (killed during Yom Kippur War, 21.10.1973). Rents apartment in Safed, paints landscapes and interiors of old synagogues.
1948 War of Independence. Safed under siege, liberated by the Palmach 10 May. Given house in Safed and renovates it. On 19 October, son Aharon-Jimmy, a Palmach Harel Brigade company commander, killed in action at the Shared Stronghold in the Har Tuv area. Buried at Kiryat Anavim military cemetery.
1949 Plans the erection of a memorial to the fallen soldiers of the Harel Brigade at Kiryat Anavim, a monument to his son and his friends. Travels the country with Rivka collecting material and testimonials for the commemorative book, Friends Speaking about Jimmy. Renovates home in Safed before winter. Rejects offers of work in the theatre and opera.
1950 Approaches Tel Aviv Museum requesting it to hold a one-man exhibition in November or in January 1951. Participates in Venice Biennale and wins prize.
1951 Wins the Dizengoff Memorial Prize and his painting Safed Landscape is purchased by the Tel Aviv Museum. Falls ill several days after April dedication of Kiryat Anavim memorial. On 10 July, Menachem Shemi dies in Haifa and is buried at the Kiryat Anavim cemetery close to his son Aharon's grave and in the shadow of the memorial he erected.

The one-man exhibition planned at the Tel Aviv Museum in May turned into a memorial exhibition, which was held at the museum from December 1952 – January 1953.

מנחם שמי
theatre projects
עיצוב גרפיThe Menachem Shemi Association, Israel