In the Synagogue
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 106.5 x 88 cm cms
Acquired in 2013 with the assistance of the HLF, the V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Art Fund
In the Synagogue, probably Wolmark’s finest evocation of his early Jewish subject matter, is meticulously and compassionately observed. Although the artist carefully depicts his subject’s ceremonial religious robes, it is not the outer trappings but the intense inner spirituality of his subject which illuminates the work. In reality however, the celebrant was probably a poor Jewish East End neighbour, paid to dress up and sit for Wolmark and fellow painter William Rothenstein. In contrast to Rothenstein, whose own Jewish origins were obscured however, Wolmark depicted his Jewish subjects with the rare, instinctive empathy of an insider.
Aaron Wolmark was born in Warsaw in 1877 and moved to England with his family in 1883, later training at the Royal Academy, where he added the English ‘Alfred’ to his name. He exhibited at the RA (1901-36) and with the Allied Artists Association (1908-16) and the International Society (1911–25). Wolmark’s teenage years in London’s East End – then the heart of the immigrant Jewish community – and two lengthy stays in his native Poland between 1903 and 1906 had a huge visual and spiritual impact on his early work. Over the first 10–15 years of his career he produced a consistent and mature body of paintings of Jewish subjects executed in the manner and spirit of Rembrandt.
Born: 1877 Warsaw, Poland
Died: 1961 London, England