The Rt Hon. Leslie Hore-Belisha
Sculptor Zeev Ben-Zvi was born in Poland in 1904 and studied at the Academy of Art in Warsaw before immigrating to Palestine in 1924. After working for two years with Boris Schatz (1866–1932), founder of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and design in Jerusalem, Ben-Zvi taught sculpture at Bezalel from 1926–7, and continued to hold a teaching post there intermittently until his death. Ben-Zvi’s early naturalistic style gave way to a more intense expression based on Cubist techniques and he became known for his portrait sculptures and his masks made from beaten copper. His work influenced a subsequent generation of sculptors.
Ben-Zvi lived in England between 1937 and 1939, featuring in Ben Uri’s annual exhibition of 1937 and having a notable one-person exhibition at the Matthiesen Gallery in London in 1938. At this time he began to use more rounded forms and to minimise detail, as can be seen in his head of Lord Hore-Belisha. (Isaac) Leslie Hore-Belisha (1893–1957) became a Liberal MP in 1923 and helped to form the National Liberal Party 1931 in support of the national coalition. As Minister of Transport (1934–37), he gave his name to the ‘Belisha beacon’ on pedestrian crossings and was responsible for introducing the 30 mph speed limit. As British Secretary of State for War (1937–40), he instituted military conscription in the spring of 1939, a few months before the outbreak of hostilities, but lost his post in 1940.
During the 1940s Ben-Zvi’s work became more abstract. His sculpture continued to
feature in Ben Uri loan exhibitions, including the 1944 Opening Exhibition and the 1953 Coronation Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture; the latter was characterised, according to the catalogue, as being ‘European rather than British’. After his return to Jerusalem, he became a lecturer at Bezalel and created a monumental sculpture at Mishmar Ha’emek kibbutz, In Memory of the Children of the Diaspora (1947), which has been described as ‘the apogee of Israeli monumental sculpture’. In 1953 he posthumously received both the Dizengoff Prize and the inaugural Israel Prize for Sculpture.