About Werner Hess

Werner Hess, goldsmith.

Theodore F. Meysels, art critic at the Jerusalem Post, once told a colleague, “…any fool could go to a show and write something about it. The trick was to write about it in an interesting manner without actually going to view it.”1Liebowitz, Ruthie Bloom, Rereading the fine print, Jerusalem Post, January 1, 2008. Nevertheless, we rely on the wily Mr. Meysels for this description of the work of Werner Hess in the summer of 1940:

Jerusalem’s “Fleet Street” has another little show case marking the workshop of the goldsmith Werner Hess. Jewellery of a technical achievement delights the eye. Mr. Hess tells us that he got this artistic training after perfecting himself in the goldsmith’s trade. This is the characteristic of his work which unites beauty of work with perfect technique. He sets great store on getting into personal touch with his customers, resetting conventional material brought from Europe in jewellery that bespeaks the personality of his clients.2 Meysels, Theodore F., Three Outstanding Craftsmen, Palestine Post, August 30, 1940, p. 4.

Hess executed the metal work for Ismar David’s design of the the sixth Golden Book of the Keren Kayemeth (the Jewish National Fund). (J.S. Haimson made the leather binding.) Again, Meysels provides a vivid description:

The front shows a typical Palestinian landscape, fertile fields in the foreground, behind them a village at the foot of the Galilean mountains topped by snow-capped Hermon. The technical execution is first class. No one could have dreamed that lacquer painting of this quality could be found outside Japan.

A delicately wrought metal gate gives a view of David’s sunny landscape and symbolizes the opening of the gates of Palestine which it is the Keren Kayemeth’s task to encompass. The perspective of the half open gate on the book cover is, presumably, an artistic compromise. But it does not detract from Werner Hess’ masterly execution of the metal work. The book’s binding staple with clasps makes it impervious to careless handling. You can open the giant volume at will, the binding staple divides the weight so evenly as to exclude any risk of damage. At long last Werner Hess seems to have solved the problem of mounting and handling heavy volumes of this type.3Meysels, Theodore F., Jerusalem’s Art Workers: Surprises for the Prowler, Palestine Post, July 6, 1939, p. 11.

On June 1, 1942, Hess and his wife Gretta welcomed a son at the Shaare Zedek Hospital.4Social and Personal, Palestine Post birth announcement, June 2, 1942, p.2.

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