A “captivating” hat-trick of paintings thought to illustrate early 20th century painter David Bomberg’s despair at the horror of World War One will go on display at The London Jewish Museum of Art’s Ben Uri Gallery this Wednesday (December 8).
© Family of David Bomberg
Britain’s oldest Jewish art venue bought the powerful works from Christie’s in July in a deal totaling £7115, describing two of them – Ghetto Theatre and The Family, Ghetto Theatre – as showing a “joyless” Jewish theatre audience in the East End in 1919, with heavy dark lines adding to a sense of bleak desolation.
Created in the same year, Sappers Under Hill 60 goes on to depict British soldiers building tunnels and trenches ahead of a successful mine attack on German forces. Bomberg had worked as a sapper when he joined the Royal Engineers after enlisting in 1915, but the harrowing experience of warfare is thought to have decimated his faith in modern technology and profoundly affected his career.
The Ben Uri already has 14 canvasses by Bomberg, who was one of an important group of Jewish artists and writers in the East End known as the Whitechapel Boys. Having moved to East London with his family in 1895, he went on to co-curate for the Whitechapel Art Gallery with sculptor Jacob Epstein.
He was appointed an Official War Artist during World War Two, but only completed one commission before moving into teaching future artists including Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff. He moved to Spain in 1954 and died in 1957.