Ben Uri collection

Portrait of a Man (Sydney Waterlow)

Artist information

Name Mark Gertler (1891-1939)

Born London, England

Died London, England

Find more work in the collection by this artist

Mark Gertler was born in a slum lodging house in Spitalfields in 1891, the fifth and youngest child of Austrian-Jewish immigrant parents ‘trying their luck’ in London. Repatriated to their native Przemysl in Galicia the following year, the family lived on the brink of starvation after the departure of Gertler’s father, Louis, to search for work in America until they were reunited in London’s East End in 1896, less than a mile from where Mark had been born. Following an unhappy apprenticeship at Clayton and Bell stained-glass makers, and a brief training at the Regent School Polytechnic, Gertler entered the Slade School of Fine Art (1908–11), aided by a loan from the Jewish Education Aid Society – the first and youngest Jewish working-class student of his generation to do so. His spectacular progress – he twice won the Slade scholarship and left with another from the British Institution – encouraged further ‘Whitechapel Boys’ including David Bomberg, Jacob Kramer and Isaac Rosenberg to follow in his footsteps. He had five solo shows at the Goupil Gallery (1921–6) and was a leading member of the London Group, but tuberculosis, first diagnosed in 1920, confined him to sanatoria in 1925, 1929 and 1936. Despite five further shows at the Leicester Galleries (1932–9), Gertler became an increasingly isolated figure in his last decade, commiting suicide in 1939.

Object Details

Date 1921

Object type painting

Medium oil on panel

Materials and techniques oil (medium)

Unframed 39.8 x 31 cm

Framed 62.8 x 54 cm

Signed signed and dated (lower right): 'Mark Gertler 1921'

Acquisition Presented to Ben Uri

Accession number 1987-111

Display status not on display

Formerly catalogued only as 'Portrait of a Man', this portrait can be identified as that of Sir Sydney Waterlow (1878-1944), known affectionately in his family as 'Monarch'. A tall man with a flamboyant moustache, he was a career diplomat and a member of the Bloomsbury Group, who once proposed marriage to Virginia Woolf. He was a member of Gertler's all-male group of friends, known as 'the Thursdays', who met weekly in Hampstead throughout the twenties and thirties. A good likeness, the portrait was exhibited under the title 'Portrait of Mr. S. W.' at Gertler's second solo exhibition at the Goupil Gallery, London, in February 1922.

Gertler has often been associated with the Bloomsbury Group with whose members he mixed at the London and Garsington homes of society hostess Lady Ottoline Morrell. These included artists Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Roger Fry (alongside whom he occasionally exhibited, particularly as fellow members of the London Group, although artistically their styles remained distinct), art critic Clive Bell and writers Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey (with whom Gertler fell out over his unrequited love for his muse and fellow painter, Dora Carrington, after she set up home with Strachey).

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