Elias Newman belonged to the first generation of Eretz-Israel artists. He is less well-known than some of his contemporaries such as Reuven Rubin, Nachum Gutman or Ziona Tagger, as he worked largely in America during the second half of his career. Newman had three very productive periods in Palestine: 1925-27, 1929-31 and 1932-35, during which he produced a body of work that enhanced his reputation as one of the leading artists of the Yishuv. Newman became an unofficial ambassador for the arts of Eretz Israel as he wrote articles for American publications, lectured extensively and exhibited his works from his days in Palestine on the East Coast of America. In 1937 at the behest of Mayer Weisgal, secretary of the American Zionist Organization, Newman joined the organizing committee for the Palestine Pavillion of the 1939 World's Fair in New York. The catalogue that he published for this event became a landmark publication for the history of Israeli art.
Newman was born in Eastern Europe. His family immigrated to America in 1913. In 1925 Newman decided to travel to Palestine to visit his older brother, Mordechai, an ardent Zionist, who joined the Jewish Legion during WWI and later settled in Jerusalem. He opened "Tarbuth", a book store and informal gallery on Jaffa Road. There Elias met a number of local artists, including Avraham Melnikoff, who had come to Palestine via Chicago. "Newman frequently visited Melnikoff in his studio at the Damscus Gate and from there he painted many sights of the Old City. He liked to sketch from nature and in his memoirs he recounts his struggle '...to capture that special transparency of the atmosphere around Jerusalem...' (C. Rubin, Elias Newman, The last of the First Ones, Tel Aviv, 1996, p. 30).
It was during his first sojurn in Palestine that Newman painted Jerualem in 1926. This evocative painting portarys the majesty and timelesness of the Old City walls, hovering above a bucolic village scene dotted with olive trees and poplars. After the opening of his second one-man exhibition in Jerusalem that same year, Newman recalls that he and his fellow artists "...took off for a walk atop the walls of the Old City in an exceptionally magnificant moonlit night." (ibid, p. 29). Indeed for Newman, as for his contemporaries, Jerusalem continually provided unique spiritual and artistic inspiration.