Jerwood Gallery reunites twin Alfred Wolmark portraits of First World War soldier

By Richard Moss | 20 May 2014

Two portraits thought to be of the same sitter killed in action in France in 1918 have been re-united 100 years after they were painted

two portraits of a young man, one in army uniform
Alfred Wolmark, Norman Kohnstamm© Jerwood Gallery/Kohnstamm family collection
A chance encounter in a Sussex gallery has reunited two portraits believed to be of the same soldier killed in the First World War - almost a century after they were painted.

The Jerwood Collection, which opened its Gallery in Hastings in 2012, acquired its Portrait of Norman Kohnstamm by Alfred Wolmark (1877 – 1961) in 1982.

Wearing his military officer’s uniform against an intense green background, the striking portrait, which bears Wolmark’s distinctive AW monograph, has recently been displayed in the Jerwood Collection exhibition at the gallery.

But a chance visit by a member of the Kohnstamm family has now led to the discovery of a ‘twin’ work, which has been in the family’s collection since 1916.

It depicts Norman Kohnstamn who was killed in action in France on March 23 1918 aged 21, in a relaxed pose without his officer’s hat.

His younger brother, Oscar Jacob (known as Jack), also served on the Western Front and it has been suggested by the Kohnstamm family that the Jerwood Collection portrait may in fact be of Jack, based on photographs.

Jack was killed in 1916 at the Battle of the Somme within weeks of arriving on the Western Front, aged just eighteen.

In a strange and twist of fate Jack was at boarding school in Heidelberg when war broke out. His cousin, Rudolf, was killed fighting for Germany within a few months of Jack’s death, also in the Battle of the Somme.

Alfred Wolmark, whose work was included in the 1910-11 Post-Impressionist exhibition in London organised by Roger Fry, painted several portraits of the Kohnstamm family, a prosperous German Jewish family who had settled in London.

The display shows other Wolmark works from the collection together with letters and photographs loaned by the Kohnstamm family.

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