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Artists of Ibiza

Artists on Ibiza

Sarah Nechamkin

by Harold Liebow



Waving her good arm excitedly in greeting, she instructed me carefully how to park my car. I say her 'good' arm because a few weeks ago Sara had had a bad fall and damaged her shoulder. She has not been able to work since then. To one who had begun to draw before she was five, and who had been at it continuously since then, the interruption has not been taken kindly. But especially now. Gesto Haberie, who runs the gallery at St. Augustine, has just called, asking for an exhibition during the summer.

Her family had come from Moscow just before the First World War, searching for a better life in England. There were nine of them, including two children. When Sarah was born, two years later, there were nine, all living in the same flat in North London. In charge was her goldsmith, watch making Grandfather, a treasured sample of whose work she showed to me. It was a marvel of golden miniaturization. But it was Sarah's young uncle, Boris, whose artistic influence was the most potent.

Boris Luban was a tremendously gifted portraitist and, before he left for the States, he filled their place not only with his own compelling creations, but with splendid copies of the works of the Masters. Sarah was surrounded by pictures, and the talk of painting, as early as she can remember. She was not only surrounded by them, but even before she was five, she was creating them. The whole household knew that Sarah was a talented child and the school system knew it, too. She won a scholarship to a special high school where a special teacher, a Nan Youngman, widely known and with enormous prestige in the London art world, saw to it that Sarah was admitted to one of London's great art institutions, Chelsea. Sarah never looked back. She taught she painted; art was, and still is, her whole life.

Ibiza entered that life about 1961. Her first words after arriving were, "I can paint here!"

You should know that in those days the island had become a powerful magnet for artists in particular and for creative people in general. There was virtually no tourism, as we know it today. Certainly no mass tourism. The island's light was magical. Artists were enraptured with it. The Mediterranean sun seduced the most impassive of them. There was the matter of the cost of living. In those days Ibiza was - if you can make yourself believe it - one of the least expensive places in which to live in all of Europe. There was the permissiveness of the social order on the island. People lived free lives in Ibiza. They mostly still do, but in those days that freedom was a peaceful, laid-back, innocent kind of free living, the quality of which was so endearing that no sensitive person could resist its charm. And finally, there was the ineffable beauty of the island itself. Ibiza was blessed by beauty, kissed by beauty, born to beauty. The beaches had not been blighted. The roads had not been built. The main traffic alongside the Montesol was mule and wagon. There were just four policemen, who wore white gloves on duty. Ibiza was a dream. Like many of us in her generation, Sarah Nechamkin fell in love with that dream.

She had heard about the island from good friends who insisted that her eye would be cherished by the light, that her pocket book would be refreshed by the exchange rate, that her love life would be graced by a prince, and, most importantly, that the landscape, which had become her painterly subject matter supreme, would prove irresistible. In all these prognostications they were proved right. Sarah settled in and soon had an exhibition in Ibiza's leading, most prestigious gallery, up in the Old Town, owned by a legendary Ibiza figure, Ivan Spence.

Now this was a somewhat exceptional matter. Spence - a giant of a man both in physical stature and in artistic principle - had been showing only avant garde painters, almost entirely abstract works. He was only in spitting relationship with landscape painting. And yet, despite the unthinkable, he willingly accepted the landscape paintings of Sarah Nachamkin! Something new was in the art world's air. It had happened like this.

In those happy days Sarah's expat circle included a veritable whirl wind of an English lady who was universally known as Little Mimi. (There was a Big Mimi, too, who looked after everybody's children. Little Mimi looked after everybody!) Now Little Mimi had a good look at Sarah's paintings and said straight out, loud and clear, "You should show these to Ivan....or I will!" And so it was that Ivan Spence saw Sarah's landscapes - done, most unusually, in extempera, a Medieval and vastly superior way of paint-making than conventional methods - and was so taken with them that she had not one, but three, highly successful exhibitions during the next few years.

There was at this time, too, a local bar, patronised it should be said, largely by the locals, who slowly became Sarah's alternative circle. The bar was called La Parra. It was owned by a woman so vast that she was not known to move on her own, and so wise that people flocked to her for advice about their problems. Her name was Catalina, of course, and she always sat like a Buddha in one corner of the premises overlooking patrons, barmen and Pepe Escudera, her superb guitarist. Soon Sarah had become a regular at La Parra. And it was there that she met another Pepe, Pepe Ballesteros. He had become the only waiter that Catalina could trust. It was not long before love blossomed in La Parra, and Sarah and Pepe are still spending their days together on the island they still love. Would that all romantic Ibiza stories had happy endings like this one!

It is only left to say that in time the themes of interiors and of buildings began to impinge on Sarah's landscape preoccupation, and that that emphasis can be seen in many of the paintings shown below. Paul Klee, it would seem, has had much to do with that.

In parting, I'm sure we can all hope for a swift recovery for Sarah's injury, and wish her well for all her years to come.

Individual Exhibitions

1961, 1963, 1964 & 1967 Portmeirion, Wales, UK
1968 Sociedad Ebusus, Ibiza
1969, 1971 & 1973 Galeria Ivan Spence, Ibiza
1973 Portmeirion, Wales, UK
1974 Galeria Bolotin, California, USA
1980 & 1981 Galeria Maloney, Ibiza
1982, 1983 & 1986 Galeria Skyros, Ibiza
1990 & 1993 "Sa Nostra", Ibiza
1996 Addison-Ross Gallery, London, UK
1999 & 2001 Casino de Ibiza
2000 Galeria Glyn & Webber, Wales, UK

Collective Exhibitions

1949 Suffolk, Galleries, London, UK London Group
1952 Leicester Galleries, London, UK
1952 Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK
1953 Yorkshire, UK
1970 Día de la Provincia, Ibiza
1971 XI Salon de Agosto de Ibiza Medalla de Bronce
1072 Exposicion Internacional, Ibiza
1973 Ibizart, 73 Galeria J. Barnes Palma de Mallorca
1994 Broughton House, Cambridge, UK
1997 Pintores de los '60, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Ibiza

Permanent Collections

Department of Education, Yorkshire, UK

Tate Gallery, London, UK

Permanent Collections


Sarah Nechamkin 1995
Black Cherries
Pink Rose 28 x 35 cm 1983
Arab Moon 5 x 6½ inches 1982
Blue Dome 16 x 19 inches 1990
Night Walkers 13 x 14 inches 1994
Almond Trees, San Agustin, Ibiza 33 x 41 cm 1994
Autumn Tree, San Agustin, Ibiza 18 x 25 cm 1995
Winding Road 35 x 46 cm 1995
Hill Town 47 x 62 cm 1995
42,5 x 50 1997
Morrocan Goat Herd 1997
Almond Trees, Santa Inés, Ibiza 1998
Morrocan Woman Ploughing 25,5 x 35 cm 1998
Reclining Figure & Guitarist 1999
Woman of Tiznit 2000
Es Vedra, Ibiza 49 x 68 cm 2000

All Pictures Courtesy of Sarah Nechamkin

Details: If you should require any further information about Sarah Nechamkin and her work then please don’t hesitate to contact this office at your own convenience.

Harold Liebow