Israeli artist David Sharir, the son of Russian immigrants, was born in 1938 in Tel Aviv. He first exhibited his paintings at the age of 19, and a year later held his first solo exhibition.

Sharir’s style is characterized by a blending of biblical themes and symbols, ornamental designs and, often, a whimsical childlike tone. Some of these elements he absorbed while studying in Italy, where he was drawn to late medieval painting, Byzantine mosaics, 14th-century Siennese frescoes and various architectural motifs. Other qualities of his paintings he transmuted from the Russian folk art passed down to him by his parents and from Middle Eastern artistic traditions and Persian miniatures. To this variegated world, Sharir added his own invention: small stylized figures—a sort of fantastic theatrical troupe—through which he comments on human rituals and experience.

In 1966, Sharir moved to Jaffa, part of modern Tel Aviv, and set up shop in the Old City. Here elements from Italy and elsewhere coalesced into Sharir’s distinctive style. His Jonah series (1968), like the biblical Jonah himself, embarks from the artist’s beloved Jaffa (see oil painting). The five oil paintings in the series (four illustrating this article and the cover illustration) reveal Sharir’s ability to present complex biblical themes with a comical, lighthearted simplicity.