In 2013 we celebrate the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Uruguay and Israel.
Uruguay was the first South American country to recognize the State of Israel on May 18, 1948 — just three days after the declaration of Israel's independence. Uruguayan politicians, headed by Rodriguez Fabregat, greatly contributed to the 1947 UN resolution that made the creation of the State of Israel possible.
The important Jewish community in Uruguay, so deeply rooted in the cultural and economic life of the country, and the many Uruguayans who live in Israel, serve as a bridge that connects the two countries.
Israel and Uruguay are both physically small countries with no natural resources; nevertheless, they found the way to economic and cultural prosperity. Trade relations, cultural exchanges and important agreements signed in recent years, such as the Free Trade Agreement and the Agreement for Scientific Cooperation, have also contributed to mutual prosperity and growth.
José Gurvich was born in Jieznas, a small shtetl near Vilnius, Lithuania on January 5th 1927. In 1932 he left with his mother Jaie and sister Myriam for Montevideo, Uruguay to join his father Jacobo, who had gone a year earlier. At age 17, he met Joaquin Torres Garcia and quickly joined his workshop, El Taller Torres Garcia or The School of the South. He was one of its leading members until its closure in 1962. In 1954/55 Gurvich arrived in Israel, where he stayed at Kibbutz Ramot Menashe for a year working as a shepherd. During that time, he presented a show at the Katz Gallery and met Israeli artists Naftali Bezem, Eva Kaufman and Dani Karavan. He traveled to Europe with Dani Karavan, with whom he shared the teachings of Joaquin Torres Garcia.
José Gurvich returned to Israel again in 1964/65 and 1969/70. During each year-long visit he stayed with his wife Julia and son Martin either at Kibbutz Ramot Menashe or in Tel Aviv where he exhibited at the Katz Gallery. His friendship with Naftali Bezem and Eva Kaufman, as well as other artists, continued throughout the years. On his last trip to Israel in 1969/70, Gurvich produced a series of biblical works in homage to his mother, who had cancer. The work The Annunciation of Sarah is part of that series and attests to his search into his Jewish religious and cultural roots, which were kept and passed on by his beloved mother.
José Gurvich spent the last years of his life, 1970 to 1974, in New York City, where he died at the age of 47 on the 24th of June. On precisely the same day his works were released by American Customs for an upcoming show at the New York Jewish Museum which never took place, due to his untimely death. He is buried at Kibbutz Ramot Menashe alongside his mother, father, sister and wife.
The short but intense life of José Gurvich left us with a very large body of works which have been shown in different Museums around the world. In Montevideo, where he grew up, the José Gurvich Foundation founded an important museum dedicated to his life and works. The museum also hosts important temporary exhibits and many cultural activities.
José Gurvich was born in Lithuania, grew up in Uruguay, died in the USA and is buried in Israel, making him a truly universal person. People from many diverse cultures, religions and nationalities appreciate his work. Alongside his being a Jew whose respect for the culture and religion of his forefathers is clearly seen in his work, the teachings of Joaquin Torres Garcia, called Universal Constructivism, gave him the tools and basis to develop his own concept of the Universal Man, which he painted in many different ways.
President, José Gurvich Foundation