Ein Jude, c.1926, etching on paper, 44.5 x 34.7 cm by Jankel Adler
Jankiel Adler was born in 1895 in Tuszyn, near Lódz in Poland, into a large, orthodox Jewish family: only his parents called him Jankel – the name he would later adopt.
As a youth he considered becoming a rabbi, but instead Adler studied engraving in Belgrade, then art in Barmen (now Wuppertal) and Düsseldorf, from 1912 –1914. After serving in World War I, he returned to Germany. While in Berlin he met Chagall, before settling in Düsseldorf in 1922. Here he joined the Young Rhineland circle, became friendly with Otto Dix and helped found Die Kommune and the International Exhibition of revolutionary artists in Berlin. He developed his unique figurative style and created murals such as his Planetarium, which was awarded the Gold Medal at the Deutsche Kunst exhibition, 1928. While working in a studio at the Düsseldorf Academy 1931-33 he became a friend of Paul Klee; who inspired a more expressionistic approach. In 1933, his work was declared ‘degenerate’; he fled Nazi Germany and established himself in Paris. He worked with printmaker Stanley William Hayter at Atelier 17, making the acquaintance of Picasso, who further influenced his work. At the outbreak of World War II, he joined the Polish Army in France: he was evacuated to Scotland and discharged, in 1940, due to ill health. Together with Josef Herman, he became a member of the Glasgow New Art club founded by J D Fergusson. By 1943, he was in London, sharing a house with ‘the two Roberts’ – painters Colquhoun and MacBryde – for whom he was a great artistic stimulus. He died at Aldbourne in Wiltshire in 1949.
Adler’s arrival in Paris in 1933 can be seen as part of a ‘second wave’ of artists from Russia who were drawn west to Germany, then to France. His etching, Ein Jude, probably executed in 1926 during his second Paris visit, brings a modernist technique to a traditional subject. Ein Jude subtly refers to Adler’s preoccupation with identity, a common theme in much of his work and evident from his biography.
Ein Jude is currently on display at the Jewish Museum Manchester where it is part of the Chagall, Soutine and the School of Paris exhibition running from 20 June - 24 November 2013. His work is also featured on the Your Paintings website, a project by the BBC, in conjunction with the Public Catalogue Foundation (PCF), ‘set to uncover the nation’s art’.
Jankel Adler, an émigré artist, deals explicitly with identity and migration, and is extensively represented in the Ben Uri collection:
Ein Jude (Plate), 1926
Portrait of a Woman, acrylic on paper
Wounded, acrylic on paper
Lovers, pencil on paper, 1920
Still Life, plaster and paint on canvas