Raphael Nouril- Classical Fine Artists


“It is better than the original”.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe upon seeing portrait of himself in Crown Heights, NY

“Oh my G-d! This is incredible. This is incredible.”.

Henry Kissinger at unveiling of portrait at Oxford University

“Great skill with a sense of human dignity and value”.

Mr. Peter Brooke, Former Secretary of State, England for National Heritage

“My portrait has been painted most beautifully”.

The Late Shah of Iran

“Thank you so much for inspiring us with your painting and with your presence and your spirituality”.

Rachell Bradl, Yeshiva University Museum

“…Elaine and I were deeply touched by the marvellous portrait of myself which we will cherish in the years to come. Everyone who has seen it is astonished by the way you have captured a personality. It is a tribute to remarkable powers of observation and artistry on your part. I am personally moved by the trouble you took over every aspect of this wonderful artistic creation, and I feel very honoured to have been perpetuated in this way”.

Former Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks

“I am a great admirer of your work. I love every one of your portraits particularly the one of Rav Lord Jakobovits.”

Lady A. Jakobovits

Encounters with the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Raphael Nouril painted two famous portraits of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.  The first painting was completed in 1984, Portrait of the Rebbe, and the Rebbe's comment when he saw his portrait was, "It is better than the original." The position of the Rebbe's hands in this painting was chosen by the Rebbe himself.  He placed his right hand over his left hand and requested that his hands should be in such a manner.  He then blessed the artist.  Raphael changed the position of the Rebbe's hands in the painting to comply with the Rebbe's wishes.  The portrait of the Lubavitcher Rebbe was even more original now due to his direct participation.  Raphael then asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe, “Rebbe, you speak about your hands. What about your face”? The Rebbe’s eyes scanned the painting and then he said, “It is better than the original.”

The second painting of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Joyous Occasion was completed in 1988.  This shows the Lubavitcher Rebbe as a young man standing next to his father-in-law (Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok), who was holding the Rebbe's hand on the occasion of the Rebbe's engagement to his daughter. The Lubavitcher Rebbe's comments when he saw this painting were: "Spasiba" (thank-you in Russian).  Thank-you very much for showing it to me.  This is my picture you have painted."  Raphael showed a very small faded black and white photograph to the Rebbe with a magnifying glass and said, "I have used this to paint this painting".  The Rebbe, with happiness, repeated, "Thank-you very much for showing it to me  The painting should be a good start to double up your efforts and spread Yiddishkeit (Judaism) with your works of art, together with your Misses."  Raphael said he had never seen the Rebbe so happy.

When Raphael visited the Tzemach Tzedek Shul in Jerusalem in 1985, he took the first Portrait of the Rebbe with him.  Everybody was waiting to see the painting and when he unveiled it, there was tremendous enthusiasm, as if the Rebbe himself had arrived to the room.  The Rabbi of the shul (synagogue) gathered around the painting with his students and Raphael had never seen such excitement and commotion in his life.  His wife Esther suggested that he capture this scene on canvas.  While she was still speaking to him, Raphael had already started the painting in his mind, inspired by the spectacle around him.  Tzemach Tzedek Shul was created. 

When he unveiled the painting to the Rebbe himself in 1990, the Lubavitcher Rebbe asked Raphael if he had forgotten to paint himself in the scene.  The Rebbe then asked, "Is this painting for me?" and Raphael was embarrassed to say no.  However, he answered, "Rebbe, I am taking it to London for a show, as you told me to spread Yiddishkeit (Judaism) with my work."  The Rebbe smiled, gave me a blessing for success and said, "Do me a favour.  When you return to London, take a photograph of the painting and send me a copy." 

Raphael had an original size photograph made of the painting and on his next trip to America, seven months later with his wife and daughter, he visited the Rebbe.  It was the Jewish month of Nissan, just before the Rebbe's birthday.  When they passed by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Raphael presented him with the photograph and the Rebbe's remarks were, "If the copy is so beautiful, certainly the original must be much more beautiful." Raphael later reported, "We both began to laugh and the Rebbe gave me his right hand. 

I kissed his hand and the Rebbe said for all good things and all good news one is supposed to make a payment, but I will give you a symbolic payment for the copy of the picture.  He gave us some dollar bills with blessings upon blessings coming forth from his mouth.

“This is an experience we will never forget and I am happy to share it with you”