Ben Uri collection

Still Life with Guitar

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 1935

Object type painting

Medium oil on board

Materials and techniques oil (medium) board (support)

Unframed 34 x 51.5 cm

Framed 56.5 x 73 cm

Signed signed and dated (upper right): 'Mark Gertler 35'

Acquisition Purchased 1937

Accession number 1987-115

Display status not on display

The textured surface, high colouring and complex composition is typical of Gertler’s still lifes during the 1930s. Musical instruments, in combination with other still life objects, were a common motif during this period. After the Slade School of Art (1908-11) Gertler embraced Post-Impressionism. His most radical work, 'Merry-Go-Round', completed in 1916, expressed his pacifist views during the First World War. During the 1920s, part of a wider European return to figuration, he concentrated on female subjects, particularly nudes, and still lifes, revisiting these subjects in the 1930s with a new concentration on form and composition.

Selected exhibition history

1944 Opening Exhibition

1944 Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Mark Gertler (1892-1939)

1945 Exhibition of Paintings by A.A Wolmark (Konstam Collection), Dobrinsky Paris, and a selection of work from the Ben Uri Collection

1957 Jankel Adler 1895-1949, Mark Gertler 1891-1939, Bernard Meninsky, 1891-1950

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