Those readers of THE JEWISH QUARTERLY who had their interest in David Bomberg whetted by the extracts from Richard Cork’s book published in our recent East End issue will be pleased to know that the Tate Gallery is shortly to host a major retrospective of his work.
Born in Birmingham in 1890 to Polish-Jewish immigrant parents who were soon to move to London’s East End, Bomberg belonged to that tightly-knit group of young Jewish intellectuals resident in Whitechapel which also included Joseph Leftwich, Mark Gertler and Isaac Rosenberg. He entered the Slade School of Art in 1911 and, in 1913, started producing the radically geometricized figure compositions for which he remains best known. A number of these were inspired by Whitechapel scenes such as Schevzik’s steam baths and the local Yiddish theatre.
By the end of the First World War, Bomberg’s moment of glory was past. He virtually retired from active participation in British artistic life and, between 1923 and 1927, lived in Palestine, where he painted numerous landscapes, some of them almost photographically realistic, others much more freely handled, in a style that anticipates his work of the next three decades. Thickly painted, richly-coloured and expressionistic, the landscapes, still lifes and portraits he produced in those years have only recently begun to win the wider recognition they deserve. Bomberg remained conscious of his Jewishness throughout his life, and Jewish subject-matter re-surfaces in a number of powerful late works. The exhibition at the Tate Gallery, which runs from 17 February to 8 May 1988, will provide an ideal opportunity for reassessing Bomberg’s career in its entirety.
Jewish Quarterly Winter 1987