Isaac Rosenberg is regarded as one of the finest war poets of his generation. In 1916, while serving as a soldier during the First World War, Isaac Rosenberg drew this self-portrait with black chalk and gouache on a piece of brown wrapping paper: Self-Portrait in a Steel Helmet, 24 x 19.5 cm.
The work is in great demand this year as part of the World War I Centenary Commemorations.
It will travel north for the Screaming Steel: Art, War and Trauma 1914-1918 show at Hatton Gallery Great North Museum, managed by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums on behalf of Newcastle University, 10 Oct – 12 Dec 2014.
Rosenberg's picture will be accompanied by another Ben Uri work: David Bomberg's Sappers Under Hill 60.
Canterbury Christ Church University, Sidney Cooper Gallery is reproducing the self-portrait for an exhibition, Remembering, We Forget: Poetry, Art and the First World War, 12 Nov – 17 Dec 2014. This exhibition will display a number of digital prints of work by the war poets, alongside contemporary art which approaches similar subjects.
The Self-Portrait has also been reproduced for the Jewish Museum of London's exhibition For King and Country? a major new exhibition exploring the Jewish experience of the First World War, until 10 Aug 2014.
A Ben Uri learning resource about Rosenberg is now featured on My Learning.org a resource for teachers and learners inspired by the collections of arts, heritage and cultural organisations.
Born in Bristol in 1890, Rosenberg was the son of Barnett and Anna Rosenberg, Lithuanian Jews who had immigrated to Britain. The family moved to London and at school Rosenberg soon discovered his talent for drawing. Aged 14, as his parents could no longer afford to keep him at school he became an apprentice to a firm of engravers. Rosenberg went to evening classes and from 1911, after he gained a wealthy sponsor, the Slade School of Art.
At the Slade Rosenberg studied with artists such as Stanley Spencer and Whitechapel painters David Bomberg, Mark Gertler, Jacob Kramer, Bernard Meninsky and Clare Winsten. After spending a year in South Africa, Rosenberg returned to England and set about making a living. Struggling to earn money from his art, in October 1915 Rosenberg enlisted in the army. During his time as a soldier Rosenberg continued to write and draw and had poems published whilst on the front line.
Read one of his poems called Break of Day in the Trenches signed by him and preserved at the Imperial War Museum.
He was killed in action on 1 April, 1918 and is buried in France. Find out more about isaac Rosenberg's poetry in the OUCS digital archive.
See another work by Rosenberg in the Ben Uri collection. Portrait of Sonia. A picture of the woman he loved and was painting during his leave from First World War military service.
The Ben Uri catalogue Isaac Rosenberg: Whitechapel at War (2008) is available from the online shop. It accompanied the first exhibition to focus on poet-painter Isaac Rosenberg for almost 20 years. The publication includes contributions from Rosenberg’s biographers and literary critics Dr Jean Moorcroft Wilson, Jean Liddiard, Dr Vivien Noakes and Dr Joseph Cohen (USA), plus contributions from art historian Dr Dominic Williams (University of Reading) and Ben Uri curators Sarah MacDougall and Rachel Dickson.