Reuven Rubin was born in Romania in 1893 and studied at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Jerusalem in 1912 and afterwards in Paris and Italy. He returned to Romania from 1916–19. In 1921 he travelled to America, where his development so impressed Alfred Stieglitz, the photographer, publisher, dealer and pioneer of modern art in America, that he arranged an exhibition of Rubin’s work at the Anderson Gallery, New York in 1922.
Rubin settled in Palestine in 1922 setting up a studio in Tel Aviv, where he developed a new naïve style and bold palette which reflected the optimism of the young Jewish community.
In 1923 he moved to Palestine and worked on stage and costume designs for Habimah and other theatrical companies, co-founding the Association of Painters and Sculptors of Palestine in 1924. In the 1920s he and Nahum Gutman (also represented in the Ben Uri Collection) were among a group of young pioneering artists who painted works celebrating the renewed fertility of the land. Rubin also painted the Jewish figures of Safed and Jerusalem, local flowers, fruits and lyrical Palestinian landscapes. Between 1948 and 1950 he served as the first official Israeli diplomatic envoy (minister) to Romania. His autobiography My Life – My Art was published in 1969.
The Rubin House, Tel Aviv houses a collection of the artist’s paintings. This fine self-portrait from the late thirties, employing a bold handling and a colourful palette, was exhibited there in 1993 and was a highlight of the Christie’s Reuben Rubin Survey held in March 2013 to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the artist’s birth and the 30th anniversary of the Rubin House. It shows Rubin displaying a painterly style and returning to greater realism following a decade in which he had been strongly influenced by the School of Paris, particularly Modigliani, and, during the early thirties the naïve style of Henri Rousseau.