Portrait of a Man
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 39.8 x 31 cm
Inscription: Signed and dated b.r. 'Mark Gertler 1921'
Gertler, born and raised in Spitalfields, London was already a recognised talent back in 1914-15, while only a few streets away the founding fathers of the Ben Uri were planning their vision of a Whitechapel Arts Society. Works by Gertler, along with those by fellow 'Whitechapel Boys' David Bomberg, Bernard Meninsky and Jacob Kramer form an important part of the permanent collection.
In Rabbi and Rabbitzin, 1914, a seminal work, Gertler successfully draws together many of the more disparate elements of Post-Impressionism. The cup, teapot, table and dresser, which are all seen from different viewpoints, show an awareness of Cezanne which was to alienate Gertler from his Slade contemporary Stanley Spencer. However, the real significance of the picture lies in the relationship between the two figures - the man and wife standing together with arms yoked against the world. The focus is on their eyes and hands - note the size of the hands - and there is humour too in the way the warm, organic forms of the still life objects reflect their human counterparts: the teapot and the rabbi's hat echoing his rounded stomach, the uncut loaf piled up like the rabbitzin's hair. It was also extremely unusual to depict the rabbitzin, but for Gertler the importance of the female, particularly in the domestic world, remained central. Sarah MacDougall, curator of 'Mark Gertler, A New Perspective', Ben Uri exhibition.
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Born: 1891 London, England
Died: 1939 London, England