Moshe Sternschuss was born in Galicia in 1903. His father was a grain merchant and owned a flourmill.
At 23, he fulfilled his childhood dream and moved to Israel to study at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. During his studies, he was close to Professor Boris Schatz, who sent him to study from 1930 until 1934, at the National School of Decorative Arts in Paris.
There he was considered an outstanding student, won distinctions and participated in prestigious exhibitions.
Two years after his return to Israel, he established together with the artist Aaron Avni the painting and sculpture studio, which over the years became the Avni Institute, where many prominent Israeli artists studied. Among his students were artist Ruth Tsarfati whom he married in 1949.
Sternschuss’s early days as an artist were characterized by realistic sculpture with the neoclassical influence of Aristide Maillol. Later, he created sculptures inspired by ancient Canaanite and primitive art works of various kinds, probably influenced by modernist approaches to art, which he encountered in Paris through Picasso’s works, which were influenced by African masks.
From 1939 onwards, he participated in all the exhibitions of the Painters and Sculptors Association. In 1948 he co-founded the New Horizons group and in the group’s second exhibition he displayed his first abstract sculpture.
In an attempt to break away from “the romance of sands and camels”, as Gideon Efrat called local Israeli art of the turn of the century, Sternschuss created small statues of humans that looked like mountains, and rock structures which looked like human figures.
Gideon Efrat also noted that Sternschuss shied away from publicity and preferred to observe the Israeli art scene from his home.
Most of his efforts were devoted to teaching at the Avni Institute and some of his works are displayed in public places. He was admired as the figure who brought uncompromising abstract art to the Israeli sculpture world. He was awarded the Dizengoff Prize twice, in 1954 and 1956.
Moshe Sternschuss died in 1992 in Tel Aviv.
On top of a tall, stone pillar, two stones are placed horizontally, each facing a different direction. A third, much smaller stone, is placed over them.
The two big stones exceed the pillar, which causes an acute sense of movement, inasmuch as it seems they are escaping their original place, and only the small stone is preventing them from tumbling down.
Sternschuss did dozens of sketches and numerous models before reaching the final design, and one can see this meticulous preparation in the sculpture itself.
The work resonates with the sense of a borderline game, and due to the balance of the stones, creates a feeling of something alive but frozen in some mysterious way.
The two stones facing in opposite directions evoke the image of someone turning sideways or turning back, just as we might imagine Lot’s wife doing as she turned around.
The sense of accuracy and attention to the shape and position of each stone, and the relationship between them, gives the sculpture a noble and elegant aura.