21 October 2017 – 4 February 2018
(Press View: Thursday 19 October 2017)
In autumn 2017 Pallant House Gallery will present a major reassessment of the life and career of David Bomberg (1890 – 1957), marking the 60th anniversary of the artist’s death. Curated by the Ben Uri Gallery and Museum in association with Pallant House Gallery this exhibition will illustrate profound developments in the artist’s own work as well as his significant achievement within the context of British modernism through more than 60 works representing all significant periods of Bomberg’s oeuvre. Despite scandalous critical neglect within his own lifetime, today Bomberg is recognized as one of the 20th century’s leading British artists.
The largely chronological exhibition will explore key themes including: The artist’s Jewish background and engagement with Yiddish culture His important contribution to pre-war British modernism His role as a war artist in WW1 and WW2 His work as a graphic artist and his exposure in contemporaneous ‘little magazines’ The Jerusalem landscapes Self-portraiture and portraiture of friends and family His mature achievements as a landscape painter Born in Birmingham to Polish-Jewish immigrant parents, Bomberg spent his formative years in London’s East End among his fellow ‘Whitechapel Boys’. The influence of his early evening class tutor Walter Sickert is reflected in Bomberg’s Bedroom Picture (1911-12, private collection) which was later re-worked as the Vorticist-influenced At the Window (1919, Ben Uri Collection); both works are included in the exhibition, an example of a pairing or re-working that is one of its major themes. At the Slade School of Art, as part of the so-called ‘Crisis of Brilliance’ generation, Bomberg was regarded as a ‘disturbing influence’. An early innovator with stylistic similarities to the English Vorticists he established crucial contacts with the European avant-garde, and in 1914 co-curated (with Jacob Epstein) a ‘Jewish Section’ within the exhibition ‘Twentieth-century Art: A Review of Modern Movements’ at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. He held his first critically acclaimed solo show in London the same year. In this period Bomberg sought a new and radical language to articulate his Jewish East End heritage and culture, expressed in early master works such as Ju-Jitsu (c. 1913, Tate), observed at his brother’s East End gym and reflecting the artist’s fractured experience as the son of Polish immigrants. Bomberg’s harrowing service in the trenches during the First World War was compounded by a disastrous experience as a commissioned war artist (Study for Sappers at Work, 1918-19, Tate); his post-war disillusionment was expressed in the masterly Ghetto Theatre (1920, Ben Uri Collection). In 1923 Bomberg travelled to Jerusalem and, on expeditions to Jericho, Petra and the Wadi Kelt, produced a series of detailed, realistic landscapes which evolved from a tightly topographical style into a looser, characteristically expressionistic style. This series heralded the painterly achievements of Bomberg’s final years, despite a series of disappointments including a difficult Second World War commission as a war artist. Following his visit to Spain in 1929, a renewed vigour entered Bomberg’s work that eventually resulted in the fulfillment of the early promise in his maturity, particularly as a compelling, powerful creator of landscapes both in the UK and in Spain. Works from major institutions including the Arts Council, the Fitzwilliam and Tate, are represented alongside works from important private collections, as well as from Pallant House Gallery and the Ben Uri Collection. The Pallant House Gallery collection spans Bomberg’s career from early Cubist drawings to some of Bomberg’s finest late works, among them Talmudist (1953), the artist’s final Self-portrait, and his final landscape (both 1956). Ben Uri’s Collection reflects its close association with Bomberg, particularly in its early years, with works including the acclaimed Ghetto Theatre (1920) acquired direct from the artist as early as 1920. This will be the first full Bomberg exhibition for more than a decade (since Abbot Hall’s 2006 Spirit in the Mass). Bomberg runs at Pallant House Gallery, Chichester from 21 October 2017 - 4 February 2018. It then tours to The Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle, from 17 February – 27 May 2018 before showing at Ben Uri Gallery and Museum, London during summer 2018. A lavishly illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition.