Profiles of Contemporary Jewish Moroccan Artists

Marc Eliany © All Rights Reserved


From an historical perspective, much artistic merit is found in Morocco’s material culture in the work of common artisans and craftsmen. 

Western modern artists found artistic redemption in it and Moroccan Jews made a significant contribution to it in creation and diffusion (Eliany, 2002).

Given the strongly grounded traditional patterns of artistic creation in Morocco, artists had to deviate from them to break ground into modern and

contemporary art forms. But until the early 50’s, religious and traditional constraints remained potent and only sustained exposure to external cultures,

i.e., French, Israeli or North American, made contemporary artistic expressions legitimate
(Eliany, 2002).

There are certainly many more artists to represent Moroccan Jewish artistic creation and in due time, more will be written about them.

Meanwhile, the three selected here, Elbaz and BenHaim on one side and Eliany on the other, certainly typify their breakthrough into contemporary art,

forgetting not their Moroccan Jewish roots.

The French influence

Around the turn of the century, Jews in Morocco became exposed to French education and French culture.

Young people went to French schools in Morocco and the brightest among them continued their studies in Europe and mostly in France.

Some, like Andre Elbaz and Maxime BenHaim, studied art in France. And their exposure to French art centers made its mark in their work.

Andre Elbaz

Leading among contemporary Jewish artists in Morocco is Andre Elbaz, born in El Jadida (Mazagan), in 1934.

He studied art and theatre in Rabat (1950-55) as well as in Paris (1957-61) and taught art in Casablanca (1962-63) (see detailed CV).

Elbaz’ work depicts Jewish themes in the abstract expressionist tradition: i.e., figures in synagogue settings, tragic events such as the Holocaust

(exhibited at Yad Vashem in 1985) and the Inquisition in 1992. He worked in Morocco, Canada and France.

His most recent work vacillates between expressionistic portrayals of Jerusalem and powerful conceptual abstract work in which

he yearns to eradicate interfaith destructiveness (see sample below).

  Andre Elbaz in his studio
Andre Elbaz, The Prayer,
Acrylics on paper
Andre Elbaz, Untitled, 1987,
Reconstituted tinted paper


Andre Elbaz, Untitled, 1987,

Reconstituted tinted paper

Maxime Ben Haim

Maxime Ben Haim born in Meknes in 1941, studied art in Paris in the mid sixties.

He worked in Morocco, France and Canada, living in Montreal since 1979.

Ben Haim elevates the Moroccan Jewish quarter (Melah) as well as ancestral figures from common existence

to archetypal transcendence in a somewhat expressionistic/realistic style.

Ben Haim’s work is firmly grounded in Jewish roots and yet it transcends cultural boundaries,

bridging across collective memories binding Jews and Arabs across many generations

(see detailed CV as well as samples of his work attached).

Ben Haim,
Self Portrait,
Acrylics on paper
Ben Haim,
Femme de Memoire,
1988 Acrylics on paper
Ben Haim,
Ombre sur la maison,
1988, Acrylics on paper

The Israeli/North American influence

Immigration to Israel and North America exposed Jewish artists of Moroccan origin to new influences.
Pinhas Cohen Gan arrived to Israel at a very young age; nevertheless his perception of Israel has been strongly determined
by his Moroccan roots and his art education in New York.
Similarly, Marc Eliany who lived in Israel for some fifteen years, certainly absorbed Israeli influences too.
He, however, arrived to Israel at a more mature age and was able to look at Israel from a critical point of view.
Furthermore, his artistic world of concepts was shaped by a wider and universal exposure to art in
North America, Europe as well as Asia and Africa.

Pinhas Cohen Gan born in Meknes in 1942 in Meknes, immigrated to Israel in 1949,

graduating from Bezalel Art Academy (1970), the Hebrew University (1973) and Columbia University in 1977.

Pinhas Cohen Gan is well known as a conceptual abstract painter in Israel.

Cohen Gan juxtaposed the individual and his environment, confronting men to “scientific” realities,

a metaphor for the alienation of newcomers from Arab countries in a ‘Westernized’ Israel (Fuhrer 1998; Omer 1983).

 Pinhas Cohen Gan
 Pinhas Cohen Gan,
Latent figurative circuit

Marc Eliany

Marc Eliany, born in 1948 in Beni Melal, immigrated to Israel in 1961 and moved to Canada in 1976.
He was educated at the Technion (1969-71), the Hebrew University (1971-76) and Carleton and Ottawa Universities (1976-1981).
Eliany is a multidisciplinary artist and writer dedicated to documenting Jewish life in Morocco.
He wrote a collection of poems ‘On Wine and Love’ in the Spanish Mauresque tradition,
a play ‘Rezadeira’ on Spanish-Portuguese Maranos and produced photographic documentation (The Last Jews of Ifrikia)
and canvases (Gates of Welcome) conveying the wealth of Moroccan Jewish Culture, past and present (

Eliany addresses issues relating to inter-cultural tolerance in a symbolic expressionist fashion.
"Eliany touches the heroic, the power of the symbol… His painting reduces rhythms to their essential…
His work expresses his deep and colorful spirituality, and his fierce sensuality…” (Ouaknine, 1994).

Eliany in his studio, 2002
Photo:C. Zacharia,
Museum of Civilization, Canada
Man at work, 1979,
Tempera on paper

Eliany, 1992,
Fes tombs, photo

After the market on a sunny day,
1993, oil on canvas board


Elbaz, Andre, 1971                  Seuls
Elbaz, Andre, 1991                  Of Fire and Exile
Eliany, Marc, 2002                   ‘Artistic Creation and the Moroccan Jewish Diaspora’
Fuhrer, Ronald, 1998               Israeli Painting, An Elephant Eye Book, New York
Omer, Mordechai, 1983           Pinhas Cohen Gan 1983 Haifa Museum of Modern Art, Israel
Ouaknine, Serge, 1994             Gates of Welcome, Virtual Publications, Canada
Yad Vashem, 1985                  The Cry of Silence: Andre Elbaz, Yad Vashem Art Museum


12, Rue Lagrange, Paris, 75005
33 1 46 33 25 91

né le 26 Avril 1934 à Mazagan, Maroc
Arts Graphiques et Théâtre
1957-1961               Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris
1950-1955               Ecole d’art graphique, Rabat
1949-1950               Ecole d’art dramatique, Rabat
2002        Galerie Mabel Semmler, Paris
La Maison de la bibliophilie, Paris
2001        Remember for the Future Maison Française, Oxford - Galerie La Croix Baragnon,Toulouse
2000        Cinq triptyques en guise de perspective - Mémorial du CDJC, Paris
1999        Le Défit à la Barbarie , Musée Départemental, Epinal- Bibliothèque de l’A.I.U.  Parris
1993        Cegep Saint Laurent, Montréal
1992        Sala dei Congressi, Milano ; Casa della   Cultura, Livorno
Ottawa Carleton Regional Center, Ottawa ;
Jewish Public Library, Montréal
1990        Centre Pompidou, Biennale du Film d'Art, Paris
1990        Seïbu Gallery, Tokyo
1989        Nishi-Azabu ; Azakloth Gallery, Tokyo
1985        Musée d'Art, Yad Vashem, Jérusalem
1984        Galerie Aut der Land, Munich
1976        Musée de Tel Aviv
La Rotonde, Aix-en-Provence ; Centre Edmond Fleg, Marseille
Château de Herbeys, Grenoble
1975        Centre Rachi, Paris
1972        Albert White Gallery, Toronto
1970        Terre des Hommes, Montréal
1969        Waddington Gallery, Montréal
1965        Centre Culturel Français, Casablanca
1964        Zwemmer Gallery, Londres
1962-63-1965          Musée de Bab Rouah, Rabat
1960        Balliol College, Oxford

1998       Prix Mémoire de la Shoah - Fondation du Judaïsme Français
1968      La Nuit n'est jamais complète  Lauréat du court métrage - Vème Biennale de Paris.

1973      Jean Paulhan à travers ses peintres
1968      Nuit Culturelle de Nancy avec Roêl d’Haese, Pierre Schaeffer, René de Obaldia Esposito, Piem.
1961-1963-1965-1967            Biennales de Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne 
1955-1959                               Salon des Surindépendants - Salon de l’Ecole Française - Salon d’Hiver
Salon de la jeune Peinture - Musée d’Art Moderne - Paris

1972        Histoire d’œufs, animation Montréal
1971       Regard sur la Peinture Américaine, Whitney Muséum, New York
1970      L’homme à la Bouteille,  Réalise à l’Office National du Fim Montréal à la demande de Norman McLaren 
Les Mobiles chez Calder,  au MOMA New York 
1969      Graphiques pour « Kaddish » de Léonard Bernstein
1966      La Nuit n’est Jamais Complète,  Oratorio "A Survivor from Warsaw “ Arnold  Schöenberg,
Service de la Recherche de l’ORTF - représente la France au Festival du Court-Métrage à Tours

1971  -  SEULS, Portfolio de 20 sérigraphies, Textes de Elie Wiesel & Naïm Kattan.
1991   -  DE FEU ET D’EXIL, Portefolio de 20 sérigraphies sur le thème de l’Inquisition, textes de François-Marc Gagnon, Shmuel Trigano & Naïm Kattan

Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris - Public Library, New York - Bibliothèque Municipale de Montréal  Jewish Museum, New York - Bibliothèque Nationale, Québec - The National Gallery, Ottawa - Musée des Beaux Arts, Montréal  - Bibliohèque Municipale, Toronto - Jérusalem Museum  - Tel-Aviv Museum  -  Yad Vashem Museum of Art, Jerusalem  - Bibliothèque de l'Université de Toronto - Bibliothèque de l’Assemblée Nationale, Paris - Musée des Deux Guerres, Paris - Ministère de la C:ulture, Paris - Musée de la Déportation, Paris Musée d’Art et d’histoire du Judaïsme, Paris  - Bibliothèque, Toronto - Jewish Seminary, New York - Bibliothèque de l’Alliance, Paris - Wienner Libary, London - Jewish Museum, Copenhague

S.A.R. La Princesse Elisabeth du Danemark - Willy Brandt - Itshack Rabbin - Mme A. de Rothschild - Elie Wiesel - Bronfman Family - M . & Mme Léon Cligman et d’autres collectionneurs privés, U.S.A., Canada, Europe, Israël, France, Suisse, Maroc.