For Moshe Castel, painting is a vital preoccupation at all times. He is an artist whose life is synonymous with and consecrated to his art. While he has experimented with other trends, Castel always returns to inspirational elements of his childhood. He fills his paintings with oriental landscapes, the romantic atmosphere of Israel, the hues of burning heat, and the shadows of the vaulted houses.
Castel also captures the mingling of cultures evident in Israel.
Born to Sephardic Jews living in Hebron, Castel revealed a penchant for art at the youthful age of six. He was influenced by the artistic talents of his father, a scholar and scribe whose superb calligraphy on Torah scrolls and ornamental embroidery on silk Torah coverings was renowned.
Castel entered the Bezalel School of Art at the age of 13, and spent three years studying arts and crafts. The young man''s talents were so pronounced that his teachers suggested he be sent to France for further studies. Castel left for Paris in 1927, at the age of 18. Ten years of struggle, hardship and assiduous study of the various techniques of art followed. Castel returned to Israel as the Second World War broke out. Drawn to the city of Safed, the seat of Jewish mysticism, he decided to settle in this city of twisting lanes, magnificent scenery and ancient synagogues. Castel closed his door to visitors and devoted himself to his art.
Castel's sojourn in France gave his work a Parisian flair and the influence of Utrillo and Vlaminck. His renewed affinity to the land of his forefathers induced him to depict the lives of Sephardic Jews in Israel. The influence of Persian miniatures is evident in his paintings, and Castel refined them, adding great charm to themes of local color and patriarchal motifs. This period lasted through the thirties and forties. Castel achieved great renown, and was extremely successful in his exhibitions. He was influenced for a time by the oriental colorfulness of Georges Rouault and by an awareness of Chagall. The impact of mysticism gradually took another form, and Moshe Castel discovered his own technique of painting, in which color and texture, picture and relief became joined. This turning point, realized in 1948, evolved around the use of a technique which utilized ground basalt rock mixed with sand and glue and infused with the rich colors that were characteristic of the artist. Castel's paintings always possess a singular vitality of color in which every bloc of color carries its own specific meaning. With this new technique, the artist produced paintings portraying indecipherable ancient Hebrew script whose panels evoke the feeling of a union of past and present. Desolation can be sensed in the seared scenes of land. The Hebrew letters are used to link the viewer with the past. An archaic spirit emanates from them. This is the ancient spirit of the people.