M A R K
G E R T L E R
B I O G R A P H Y
- Mark Gertler (1891-1939)
He was born in London, of poor Polish Jewish parents. He was first apprenticed to a stained-glass maker, but managed in the face of great difficulties to become a painter, and was a member of the NEAC (1912-14) and the London Group. Post-Impressionism had a brief influence on his art, and he painted mostly still-life and nudes, such as The Queen of Sheba (1922: Tate); his late works also show the influence of folk art.
In the 1930s Gertler began to simplify and intensify his earlier vision of the female nude, allowing the exquisitely opulent nudes of the twenties with their masterful interplay of colour and flesh tones to give way to a greater emphasis on the solidity of form. These works, with their strong, monolithic forms indicate his move towards the monumental in art and have invited comparison with contemporary sculpture by Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore. (Gertler had been introduced to Moore in 1932, by fellow London Group member Bernard Adeney, and the two men met regularly during this period.) However, the most significant influence is undeniably French; specifically the neo-classical nudes and draped female figures of Picasso and Juan Gris from the early 1920s, which themselves recall the statues of classical antiquity with their immobility, impressive forms and massive limbs.
He made a single piece of sculpture, Acrobats (1917: Tate). He was a victim of acute depression (in which contemporary anti-Semitism played its part, as it did for Bomberg), and after an unsuccessful exhibition he killed himself.
- Sources: The Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists (Penguin Reference Books), John Woodeson, Mark Gertler : Biography of a Painter 1891-1939, Sidgwick & Jackson, London, 1972, p.388
Dora Carrington & Mark Gertler
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