Israeli sculpture designates sculpture produced in the Land of Israel from 1906, the year the “Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts” (today called the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design) was established. The process of crystallization of Israeli sculpture was influenced at every stage by international sculpture. In the early period of Israeli sculpture, most of its important sculptors were immigrants to the Land of Israel, and their art was a synthesis of the influence of European sculpture with the way in which the national artistic identity developed in the Land of Israel and later in the State of Israel.
Efforts toward the development of a local style of sculpture began in the late 1930s, with the creation of “Caananite” sculpture, which combined influences from European sculpture with motifs taken from the East, and particularly from Mesopotamia. These motifs were formulated in national terms and strived to present the relationship between Zionism and the soil of the homeland. In spite of the aspirations of abstract sculpture, which blossomed in Israel in the middle of the 20th century under the influence of the “New Horizons” movement and attempted to present sculpture that spoke a universal language, their art included many elements of earlier “Caananite” sculpture. In the 1970s, many new elements found their way into Israeli art and sculpture, under the influence of international conceptual art. These techniques significantly changed the definition of sculpture. In addition, these techniques facilitated the expression of political and social protest, which up to this time had been downplayed in Israeli sculpture.
The beginning of sculpture in the Land of Israel, and of Israeli art in general, is usually designated as 1906, the year of the founding of the Bezalel School of Arts and Crafts in Jerusalem by Boris Schatz. Schatz, who studied sculpture in Paris with Mark Antokolski, was already a well-known sculptor when he arrived in Jerusalem. He specialized in relief portraiture of Jewish subjects in an academic style.