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Tanya Bentley

MA work

‘From every object shines the sanctity of Jerusalem’: The Bezalel School of Arts & Crafts and Anglo-Jewish Identities, 1906-1929

My dissertation focuses on the objects produced at the Bezalel School of Arts & Crafts; a school with accompanying craft workshops founded in Jerusalem in 1906 for Jewish artists and craftsmen. During this period, the Zionist movement, with its central aim of establishing a Jewish homeland in the ancient Land of Israel, was gaining momentum. The Bezalel School aimed to create and promote a national art that would further the Zionist cause. This dissertation considers the impact this new type of material culture had in shaping, influencing and nationalising Jewish people living outside Palestine, specifically in Britain. In order to draw its conclusions, it traces the ‘cultural biographies’ (Kopytoff, 1986) of Bezalel objects in Britain. It analyses key exhibitions of Bezalel objects; the earliest in 1912 as part of the Palestine Exhibition and Bazaar, London, and later on in 1924-5 when, as a British mandated territory, Palestine and its industries were included in the British Empire Exhibition in Wembley. By looking at case studies, it also considers the impact Bezalel objects had once they entered the British Jewish domestic space. By following these objects beyond the point of production and sale into early twentieth-century Britain, this research shows how local contexts ultimately determined the way these items were received. They were not simply products used to promote Zionism. They were brought into the homes and lives of Jewish people living outside Palestine, reflecting and helping to form their owners' local, religious, cultural and political identities.


  • MA Degree


    School of Humanities


    MA History of Design, 2017

  • My research interests are wide ranging and include using artefact-led approaches to understanding early twentieth-century Jewish arts and crafts and their relationship to histories of design, nationalism and identity. As part of my role as a Curatorial Assistant at the National Portrait Gallery, I have researched widely on British portraiture. 

  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons), History and French Studies, University of Birmingham, 2014
  • Experience

  • Curatorial assistant, National Portrait Gallery, London, 2014 to present; Assistant curator, London Jewish Cultural Centre, London, 2014 - 2015; Sixteenth century Curatorial Intern, National Portrait Gallery, London, 2014; Research assistant, Yad Vashem Holocaust Art Museum, Jerusalem, 2012
  • Exhibitions

  • Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the mask, another mask, National Portrait Gallery, London, March - May 2017
  • Awards

  • Clive Wainwright Award (2016); French Literature Prize, University of Birmingham (2014)
  • Publications

  • Tanya Bentley, 'Claude Cahun and Gillian Wearing: Chronology' in Gillian Wearing and Claude Cahun: Behind the mask, another mask, ed. by Sarah Howgate (London: National Portrait Gallery, 2017), pp.188-199