The Tortoise And The Hare At The University Gallery, Leeds

By Richard Moss | 30 April 2003
Shows Two Studies of a Woman (Sarah) by Jacob Kramer. Chalk and pastel on paper.

Left: Jacob Kramer, Two studies of a woman (Sarah). 1916. Picture Courtesy University Gallery Leeds

The University Gallery in Leeds is hosting a duo show until June 20 that contrasts the styles and preoccupations of two of the great innovators of early twentieth century art.

Titled the 'Tortoise and the Hare' - the exhibition of works by William Roberts and Jacob Kramer has been put together by the Ben Uri Gallery in London as the third in their 'Whitechapel Boys' series of East End Jewish Art.

Shows the drawing, Head of a Rusian, by Jacob Kramer.

Right: Jacob Kramer, Head of a Russian. Picture courtesy Ben Read.

William Roberts was a founder member of the Vorticists and an official war artist. He is widely recognised as one of the most original artists of the 20th century and is particularly renowned for his portraits of Londoners at work and at play.

His contemporary Jacob Kramer worked periodically in London until the 1930's and was a key figure in the early development of English modernism. Ultimately he turned his back on London and the wider art scene, returning to Leeds where he worked as a draughtsman becoming an active member of the city's cultural scene.

Shows the painting, The Jew, an oil on canvas by Jacon Kramer

Left: Jacob Kramer, The Jew, 1916. Picture, University Gallery Leeds

It is Roberts who is cast as the tortoise - with his reputation for having an everyday routine and being focused in his art, with Kramer as the hare, his Jewish Russian émigré background marking him out as a bohemian with a penchant for all things spiritual and philosophical.

Chronologically arranged to best reflect the artist's visual development and divergence the exhibition works best in juxtaposition. Both attended the Slade and were influenced by classicism before responding in their own ways to the abstraction of the 1910's and 1920's.

Shows the drawing, 'ah know wot's up wi' thee' by Jacob Kramer

Right: Jacob Kramer, 'Ah know wot's up wi' thee!', illustration for 'Tyke' June 1929. Picture courtesy University Gallery Leeds.

There is an abiding interest in family from both artists but Kramer's search for the spiritual in his art is a distinct contrast to Roberts' dedication in recording the daily life of Londoners and the influence of the First World War.

Amongst the eighty items encompassing paintings, drawings and ephemera, the show also explores the part of Sarah Roberts (the wife of William and sister of Jacob) in her role as a model for both artists as well as Roberts' muse and support.

Shows the Depostion, a ink drawing by Jacob Kramer.

Left: Jacob Kramer, The Deposition. Picture, University Gallery, Leeds.

It makes for an intriguing exhibition that reflects the contrasting styles and responses of two major figures of British twentieth century art.

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