The Family (Study for Ghetto Theatre II)
Medium: Pencil, ink and wash on paper
Dimensions: 25.4 x 19.7cm
Date: c. 1919-20
Acquired at Christie's London in 2010 with the assistance of the Art Fund, the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and anonymous donors
Bomberg’s Ghetto Theatre studies relate to the finished painting, Ghetto Theatre (1920, Ben Uri Collection), observed at the Pavilion Theatre, Whitechapel, and painted on the eve of his departure from the East End. Pre-war Bomberg’s animated studies of the East End Yiddish theatre audience had captured its freedom and liveliness, as well a sense of expectation and restlessness. Afterwards, disillusioned, Bomberg’s drawings are infected with his disappointment. He retains the tight drawing style of his 'Sappers' studies and, like the sappers, his theatre audience is now enclosed and constrained by dominating structures and tall verticals.
In the aftermath of the war Bomberg suffered poverty and critical neglect in England. He became a highly influential teacher at the Borough Polytechnic, where his pupils included Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff, and also gave rise to the Borough Group. He travelled widely, particularly in Spain, painting powerful, expressionistic landscapes.
David Bomberg was born in Birmingham in 1890, the fifth child in a Polish-Jewish immigrant family, but grew up in Whitechapel in the East End of London. He initially trained as a lithographer and studied art in evening classes under Walter Sickert and also worked as an artist’s model. A grant from the Jewish Education Art Society enabled him to study at the Slade School of Art from 1911-13 where he was seen as a ‘disturbing influence’.
During this time, he painted a series of complex geometric works – most famously Mud Bath and In the Hold – combining the influence of Cubism and Futurism. (The Futurists were fascinated by the dynamism of modern forms of machinery, transport and communication. One of their main interests was capturing a sense of movement in their works.) However, during World War l, Bomberg served on the Western front.
His experience of the destructive power of machines at war and the death of his brother in the trenches destroyed his faith in the machine age. After the war, his painting became rounded and more representational. He spent four years in Palestine concentrating on landscape painting and later lived in Spain, developing a more vigorous style with looser brushwork. He was an official war artist during the Second World War. After the war, he and his wife, artist Lilian Holt, founded the Borough Group (1948). He taught at the Borough Polytechnic, where his students included Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff. In 1954, he settled in Spain.
Born: 1890 Birmingham, England
Died: 1957 London, England