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Home / Culture and Heritage / Ben Uri Gallery, The London Jewish Museum of Art / Relationships Teaching Pack Images / Mark Gertler, Rabbi and Rabbitzen, 1914
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Mark Gertler, Rabbi and Rabbitzen, 1914


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Mark Gertler, Rabbi and Rabbitzen, 1914
Watercolour and pencil

Gertler was born on December 9, 1891, the youngest son of poor Jewish immigrants from Poland who settled in the East End of London. In 1908 he was the first Jewish student to enrol at the Slade College of Art where he was given a scholarship. He and other Jewish East End artists, who followed him to the Slade, including David Bomberg, Bernard Meninsky and Isaac Rosenberg, became known as ‘The Whitechapel Boys’.

Between 1912-14 Gertler’s work explored his own origins focusing on the poverty and hardship of his Jewish background. He did many portraits of local people including his mother. He spoke fluent Yiddish, which probably helped him persuade local people to sit for him.

Several important collectors bought Gertler’s work, including Edward Marsh, private secretary to Winston Churchill and Lady Ottoline Morrell, a rich society hostess, who introduced him to the Bloomsbury set. In 1915 he fell in love with Dora Carrington (1893–1932), another Slade art student, who left him in 1917, when she fell in love with the writer, Lytton Strachey.

Gertler was commissioned to paint a number of society portraits but often upset people with his idea of what his work should be like. He said, “I never set out to please. My greatest spiritual pleasure is to paint just as I feel impelled to do at the time,”

Gertler was a pacifist. During the First World War, after the battle of the Somme, he painted his masterpiece, The Merry-Go-Round. This illustrated his hatred of war, showing stiff rows of soldiers and civilians spinning forever on a roundabout.

In 1920 he was struck with tuberculosis and had to spend long periods in a sanatorium. He was often poor and unhappy. Throughout the 1920s he concentrated on painting still lifes and nudes. His colours became more subtle. In the 1930s he found it hard to sell his work and was forced to teach part-time. On June 23 1939, depressed by his ill-health, a badly-received exhibition, lack of sales and fear of imminent war, he took his own life.

Examples of works by Mark Gertler in the Ben Uri Collection

Portrait of a Girl
(The artist’s sister Sophie) c. 1907
Oil on canvas
58 x 48.5 cm

Still Life with Guitar
Signed and dated 1935
Oil on panel
34 x 51.5 cm

Examples of works by Mark Gertler in other collections

Tate Collection
Jewish Family 1913
Oil on canvas support
66.0 x 50.8 cm frame: 85.9 x 70.2 x 10.3 cm
Painting Bequeathed by Sir Edward Marsh through the Contemporary Art Society 1954

Tate Collection
Merry-Go-Round, 1916
Oil on canvas
frame: 210.0 x 162.0 x 7.5 cm support: 189.2 x 142.2 cm
Painting Purchased 1984

Examples of other works by Mark Gertler can be found at Tate on line at:;=1156&page;=1

16th Feb 2011

Art and Design, Citizenship, Design and Technology, Geography, History, PSHE, Religious Education

Key Stages:
Foundation, Key Stage 1, Key Stage 2, Key Stage 3

Art, teaching packs, history, immigration, judaism, jewish, contemporary, london, international, sculpture, photography, painting, education, primary, secondary, drawing, movement

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