There is a common soliloquy or refrain among art dealers when discussing a painting; it is the particular artist's greatest work. When asked how the dealer can make the statement the answer usually is, because I own it.
So it is funny when I tell you that I believe that this might be the late Israeli artist Dan Kedar's greatest work. Not that I own it, I do not. But my sister does and I am selling it for her. And objectively as possible, I will tell you that I think the Kafkaesque canvas is brilliant. Touches of Bosch too.
I don't know a lot about Dan Kedar (1929-2008) but his work is very surrealistic. I lifted this bio from the a dealer who had himself lifted it from an Israeli Museum site.
...He grew up among Tel Aviv's movers and shakers. One of his grandfathers was Moshe Glickson, a chief editor at Ha'aretz, and his kindergarten teacher was Haya Brenner, the widow of influential author Yosef Haim Brenner. After serving in a Palmach brigade in the War of Independence, Kedar established Kibbutz Harel with a bunch of fellow Bezalel students in 1949. A member of the communist-leaning Hashomer Hatzair youth movement, Kedar's identification with communism strengthened as he grew older. In 1950 he read the book that caused him to abandon art for six years. It was by Andrei Zhdanov, the Soviet architect of what came to be known as socialist realism, in which Zhdanov argued that the artist must serve only his society. "I was torn in half," says Kedar. "I believed him with all my heart, but I was brought up on individualistic modern art [by] Picasso, Roualt and Soutine, and here was Zhdanov calling for realism. I couldn't do it, so I decided to stop painting." He did. Only after Krushchev's famous "secret speech" repudiating Stalinism did "I slowly start to paint again," Kedar says. In the meantime, he'd turned to theater. At the Cameri Theater School he studied directing and design, from there moving on to the famous Old Vic school in Bristol, where one of his fellow students and stagehands was future seven-time Oscar nominee Peter O'Toole.
The title is The Little Idiotic Trial or at least that is what the title was on the bill of sale as it does not seem to have a visible title. Dated 1969 and signed upper left.
A friend and fellow shop keeper just asked me to explain the work to them. Always tricky and dangerous but my best guess is that the man with the painting is Kedar and he feels like he is facing a judgement and inquisition from the moral and judicial authorities over an artistic creation that is in fact something rather innocuous.
But I could be very far off. Who knows? But there is definitely a feeling of he and his family being persecuted by the powers that be and a serious worry about being crushed by the state apparatus.