Portrait of a Girl
Castel was born in Jerusalem to Israeli parents. Based for many generations in the Israeli town of Hebron, the Castel family originally emigrated from Castile, Spain. His father, a rabbi, was a scholar and a Judaica artist. Castel studied at Bazelel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem from 1922. However, his father did not support his desire to travel to Paris, where he wished to fully immerse himself in the art there. Eventually, Castel’s mother persuaded her husband, and Castel subsequently lived and work in Paris for 13 years.
In 1940 he returned to Israel and settled in Safed, a small northern Israeli town. Inspired by the ancient holy places and the mystic atmosphere created by the kabbalist rabbis of this medieval town, Castel was among the founders of the “New Horizons” artists collective, taking a central role in the history of Israeli art.
Much of Castel’s art refers to significant events in Israeli. His work is rich in symbolism, frequently referencing Torah scrolls and Hebrew lettering, to depict the vivid and varied landscape of both modern Israel and events from the Torah and the country’s recent history.
Castel’s unique technique is partly owed to the material he uses in his work, ground basalt. Castel is believed to have chosen this material after a visit to the Galilee, where he was inspired by the ancient synagogues constructed from basalt stone and decided to create a new material. He was attracted to the integral blending of the Jewish faith and the Israeli landscape. It was clear to him that the new material was appropriate for his art, since its themes involved Judaism and biblical visions.
His art has been widely celebrated, particularly in his mother country, where he was commissioned to create several murals in prestigious locations, including the Israeli Parliament (The Knesset) and the Presidential Residence in Jerusalem.
Castel died in 1991, aged 82, in Tel Aviv, Israel.