Interstices: Discovering the Ben Uri Collection Guest curated by RenĂŠ Gimpel
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Chairman’s Foreword A New Digital Era
Acknowledgments Our sincere thanks are due to guest-curator René Gimpel for his time, selection and curatorial introduction, to research assistants Réka Vajda and Sofia Gurevich, and to Rachel Hooper for design. Image details: front and back cover, Mario Dubsky, Abstract (I), 1972 p. 2 Sonia Delaunay, Illustration for Rythmes et Couleurs, 1966 p. 4 Sandra Blow, Drawing No. 21, 1969 p. 7 David Lan-Bar, Untitled (II), 1987
Copyright Sandra Blow © Sandra Blow estate Dorothy Bohm © Dorothy Bohm Marisol Cavia © Marisol Cavia Hervé Constant © Hervé Constant Sonia Delaunay © Pracusa Mario Dubsky © Mario Dubsky estate Naum Gabo © Naum Gabo estate Laura Green © Laura Green Hermann Fechenbach © Hermann Fechenbach Adam Kops © Adam Kops Michael Kovner © Michael Kovner Jacob Kramer © The William Roberts Society, London David Lan-Bar © David Lan-Bar estate Margarete Marks © Margarete Marks estate Marcel Janco © Marcel Janco estate Lélia Pissarro © Lélia Pissarro Michael Rothenstein © Michael Rothenstein estate Annette Rowdon © Annette Rowdon estate Pat Schaverien © Pat Schaverien Hans Schleger © Hans Schleger estate Zory Shahrokhi © Zory Shahrokhi Ruth Schreiber © Ruth Schreiber Vikki Slowe © Vikki Slowe estate Willy Tirr © Willy Tirr estate Victor (‘Vicky’) Weisz © Associated Newspapers Ltd
Ben Uri is proud to present Interstices: discovering the Ben Uri Collection, guestcurated by René Gimpel, available in both this digital and print-on-demand format under the umbrella of the Ben Uri Research Unit for the Study of the Jewish and Immigrant Contribution to British Visual Culture since 1900. In recent months, the world has changed in ways we could hardly imagine. In this time of global pandemic, as every facet of our daily lives requires significant adaptation to reflect the changed and evolving new norm, galleries and museums also face new challenges to maintain fruitful engagement with our public and audiences. Ben Uri is at the forefront of a digital revolution within engagement processes in museums and culture. In October 2018 we published a 20-page, detailed strategy to address the decades ahead, through a (then considered radical) creative transformation from the museum sector’s standard physical operating model, with a limited digital presence, to a principally, digital institution, with a limited physical presence. While digital engagement has rapidly accelerated during the Covid-19 lock-down, the demands of the museum sector’s physical assets will eventually force a reversal and rebalancing of audience engagement. This is not the case for this charity and museum. We are totally committed to pioneering an exciting, distinctive digital future and are investing heavily to push the boundaries of the virtual world to make every aspect of our wide-ranging programmes more and more accessible, interesting, engaging, and valuable. David J Glasser Chairman
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The Ben Uri Research Unit for the Study of the Jewish and Immigrant Contribution to the Visual Arts in Britain since 1900 is delighted to present the online exhibition, Interstices: discovering the Ben Uri Collection, guest-curated by distinguished gallerist René Gimpel of Gimpel Fils. Originally scheduled to open at Ben Uri Gallery in April 2020 but unavoidably delayed owing to the gallery’s premature closure following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, this is the fourth in our recent schedule of virtual exhibitions within Ben Uri’s new era as a full-scale virtual museum with a physical presence, and the first in our projected series of guest-curated collection shows. The history of Gimpel Fils has a resonance with Ben Uri’s own: both galleries were established in London by Jewish émigrés fleeing persecution – Ben Uri by Eastern-European immigrant artisans in the East End in 1915, Gimpel Fils by the brothers Charles and Peter Gimpel some 30 years later in the West End in 1945. The gallery was named in tribute to their late father René Albert Gimpel, a specialist in French art, whose celebrated Paris gallery made him one of the best-known art dealers of his day (his wife, Florence, was the sister of British dealer Joseph Duveen); arrested during the Second World War for Resistance activities, René died in Neuenegamme concentration camp, near Hamburg in Germany in 1944. The Gimpel brothers, who found refuge in Britain, were among a remarkable cohort of many (mainly Jewish) émigré gallerists, also including Erica Brausen of the Hanover Gallery – with whom they later worked closely – as well as Annely Juda, Herbert Bier, Arthur Kaufmann, Henry Roland (né Heinz Rosenbaum) and Gustav Delbanco (to name but a few), who all greatly enriched the British art scene in this period. This contribution has recently been celebrated by the exhibition Brave New Visions at Sotheby’s and with study days at both the Courtauld and Sotheby’s Institutes of Art in 2019. Ben Uri’s own collection and exhibiting history were similarly enriched from the 1930s onwards by the so-called ‘Hitler émigrés’, a number of whom, in the succeeding decades were also given crucial exhibiting opportunities at Gimpel Fils, which specialised – as their letterhead declared – in both old masters and contemporary artists; the latter, included in 1947 and 1948 respectively, two solo exhibitions for PolishJewish émigré Jankel Adler (whose British years were the focus of a
recent snapshot survey show at Ben Uri in 2019). Naturally, their stable also included many Ecole de Paris artists, and in 1956 Gimpel Fils kindly presented the Ben Uri Collection with a rare gouache landscape by Abraham Mintchine, which subsequently featured in Ben Uri’s Fortieth Anniversary Exhibition later the same year. Interstices reflects these connections with a handful of works by Ecole de Paris artists: Sonia Delaunay, David Lan-Bar and Chaïm Soutine, and many more by artists who immigrated to Britain: Dorothy Bohm, Marisol Cavia, Herman Fechenbach, Naum Gabo, Jacob Kramer, Grete Marks, Uriel Orlow, Leopold Pilichowski, Lélia Pissarro, Annette Rowdon, Hans Schleger, Zory Shahrokhi, Willy Tirr and Victor ‘Vicky’ Weisz. In line with René’s own interests, Interstices also shines a spotlight on abstraction, which despite effectively dominating postwar painting (until the resurgence of figuration in the 1980s), is generally less wellrepresented in the Ben Uri Collection and, subsequently, less frequently exhibited than its figurative counterpart. Spearheading this cohort is pioneering abstractionist Sandra Blow, a homegrown British talent, given her first solo exhibition by Gimpel Fils in 1951, a connection that continued until the mid-1960s. During the same period, she also exhibited frequently with Ben Uri (in mixed shows between 1954 and 1969), and her work was acquired for the gallery, although she did not otherwise show within a specifically Jewish context. Many of the other featured artists were also pioneers in their fields in their new host countries outside the UK, notably: Naum Gabo, Sonia Delaunay and Marcel Janco. The chosen works are not only particularly deserving of this greater exposure but also undeniably effective when brought together for our scrutiny, covering all aspects of the human experience and condition encompassing conflict, safety, joy, fear, pain, pleasure, the importance of memory, and, above all, the artist’s freedom to experiment. We thank René Gimpel for this inspiring selection and his illuminating accompanying introduction. Sarah MacDougall Head of Collections and BURU
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Interstices: discovering the Ben Uri Collection
The Ben Uri collection is a treasure trove. It’s an honour and a privilege to be invited to delve into it, with carte blanche as to my selection for this exhibition. After several days sifting through the image library, I settled on two criteria. One based on aesthetic considerations; the other, on singling out artworks corresponding to a personal narrative. Inevitably, the two overlap because I consider the choices all to have artistic merit and this being a personal selection, it reflects my values. The professional, the political and the personal intertwine. I am pleased to find a quantity of abstract works in the collection. Abstraction is my first love, it’s what I grew up with, it’s what I as a dealer have been most comfortable with. Within this genre I include a selection of works which might be termed geometric abstraction, or art concret to use a French rendering and one which applies to many of the artists who show in my Paris gallery. As far as I can tell, abstraction in the UK tends to have a lower profile compared to figuration and realism, all the more reason to champion it. Personal links start here with Sandra Blow and Sonia Delaunay, both of whom exhibited at Gimpel Fils. As for realism, there is an abundance of choice at Ben Uri. John Allin’s view of Heneage Street and Brick Lane are familiar because I lived on Brick Lane for two years. I added his lithograph of a protest at Whitechapel, not just because it is pertinent to the history of the area, but also because it’s an echo of my own student and not-so-student days of marching and protesting for radical causes. Drawing a line here to Herman Fechenbach’s woodcut of Lenin, what struck me, beyond the quality of his work, is the agit-prop message within the context of the year, 1943. This was the year of Stalingrad, the battle of Kursk and the Allies’ invasion of Italy. A turning point in the war, but not for Jewish, Sinti and Manouche inmates of ghettoes and concentration camps. Something of the sombre mood of that year is reflected in the dark tones of this woodcut. Turning to another work, I discover Jacob Kramer’s The Philosopher. A lithograph which might have been a woodcut, the stark, angled Expressionist black-and-white image of a sage poring over documents, one hand covering his head in thought. I have a lay interest in materialist philosophy – tempered with Jean-Paul Sartre’s
existentialism – so this image resonates. Existentialism is, arguably, now of historic interest but another philosophy is not: feminism. Feminism is the philosophy of the second half of the twentieth century because in my time, it begins with Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and de Beauvoir is Sartre’s partner and equal. Marisol Cavia; Lélia Pissarro; Ruth Schreiber; Zory Shahrokhi. Different each and every one and yet and yet… the personal is political and curiously, these four artists use a restrained palette of silver, or soft black and for three of them, red. Schreiber’s Childhood Remembered is also mine. Both of us born in London in 1947. None of these four artists are, or need be philosophers in the manner that Jacob Kramer illustrates his subject; but their position as women in a world where patriarchy is still dominant, means that as artists theirs is a material reflection on a material situation. Vicky’s cartoon Charlemagne, with its caricature of President de Gaulle, is another close-to-home reference. The cartoon is undated, but all points to 1958, when de Gaulle organised a referendum, which gave him a majority to create France’s Fifth Republic (the ‘V’ on the Phrygian bonnet-crown being offered him). Vicky has accurately caught the significance of de Gaulle’s seizing sweeping presidential powers under the new constitution. The President’s sceptre bears the Croix de Lorraine, de Gaulle’s wartime symbol of French Resistance, a symbol which features on the medal of the order ‘Compagnon de la Libération’, de Gaulle’s personal creation to award leading actors in this fight and whose history is commemorated in a dedicated museum at the Invalides, Paris. My father was one of its 1,038 recipients, but his relationship to France and to de Gaulle remained complicated. Vicky’s witty parallel of Charles with Charlemagne sums up my father’s attitude, because he disapproved of de Gaulle giving himself such powers. However, the context for de Gaulle’s declaration of a Fifth Republic was the crisis created by the Algerian War and two years later, when elements of the French army threatened a putsch against de Gaulle, my father announced to the family that in such an eventuality he would don his uniform again and return to fight alongside the President. Hans Schleger and Leopold Pilichowski share something in common with Chaïm Soutine in this exhibition. Something visible and something invisible. Schleger’s Hands at Your Service (Ticket Collector) from 1946, is a remarkable London Transport poster. It does something that is rarely seen nowadays on TfL posters: it points to the manual labour, in the
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literal and metaphorical sense, of transport workers. The composition is a fine balance, with one hand pointing and the other holding the ticket punch which clips out a hole in a ticket to show that it has been used (on the buses, conductors were affectionately referred to as ‘clippies’). Manual labour is being honoured; but so is the intellectual labour of this member of the working class, because the pointing hand and text refer to the knowledge about London that this man – or woman – possesses and can impart. The hands in Pilichowski’s The Labourer (Old Man in a Blue Smock) are relaxed, because his labour is over for the day, but they are prominent in the composition, occupying the foreground and in their colouring, standing out from the leather smock that the man appears to be wearing. He looks down, weary. In France, blue is the traditional costume colour for manual workers though I like to think that Pilichowski’s figure was painted in Whitechapel, where the artist made several portraits of poorer Jews. A line can be drawn back to the Ben Uri, where Pilichowski served as president. Chaïm Soutine’s charming Jeune Servante (Waiting Maid, also known as La Soubrette) is another depiction of a working-class figure, but it is her hands – or more accurately, her lack of them – that drew my attention. It has been observed that Soutine had a problem painting hands. A few years ago, I was invited to give an opinion on a Soutine portrait that was being offered under the ‘In Lieu’ scheme to a national collection. The issue with this portrait was expressed as a doubt about its worth because the figure’s hands appeared unfinished. My reply to this comment was to quote an extract from my grandfather’s diary from 1930, when he was a Parisian art dealer. My grandfather owned a Soutine which the artist wished to rectify, claiming that the painting was in some manner not right. Knowing of Soutine’s reputation, when the artist arrived with his paintbrushes, he asked if instead of working on the painting in situ, he could take it back to his studio. My grandfather refused, saying bluntly to the artist: “You’re too dangerous”. Eventually, under close supervision and without the painting leaving the premises, Soutine was allowed to make some minor adjustments. I am pleased to say that the Soutine gift to the nation was accepted. René Gimpel, September 2020
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Hans Schleger (Zéró, né Hans Schlesinger) (1898 Kempen, Prussia (now Kempen Germany) – 1976 London, England) Hands at Your Service (Ticket Collector), 1946 Lithograph 101.6 x 63.5 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by Mrs Helen Draper 2016
Graphic designer Hans Schleger was born Hans Schlesinger to middle-class Jewish parents in Kempen, Prussia in 1898. In 1904 the family moved to Berlin and, at the age of 20, he shortened his name to Schleger. He trained at the Kunstgewerbeschule (1918–21), then worked as a publicity and film set designer for John Hagenbeck, before moving to New York in 1924, where he worked as a freelance designer and then, as an art director in advertising, under the name ‘Zéró’, establishing his own studio in 1926. He was an early contributor to the New Yorker and later became visiting Associate Professor at the Institute of Design, Chicago. In 1929 Schleger returned to Berlin but, worried by the rise of Nazism, and already a confirmed Anglophile, immigrated three years later to England (naturalised in 1938). In 1934 the publisher Lund Humphries organised an exhibition of his work in Bedford Square and he opened his own studio. Together with Edward McKnight Kauffer, Schleger introduced the British public to modern graphic design and the concept of ‘corporate identity’, refining the famous London Transport ‘bull’s-eye’ icon into the bus stop symbol. During the Second World War, he designed many posters for London Transport, the Ministry of Food (including the famous ‘Grow Your Own’ posters for the Dig for Victory campaign) and the GPO. In 1946 he participated in the Britain Can Make It exhibition and contributed to the influential publication The Practice of Design; in 1959 he was appointed Royal Designer for Industry. He also held many lecturing posts including Guest lecturer at Chelsea Polytechnic, Central St Martins, and the Royal College of Art. Solo exhibitions of his work were held in London, New York and Chicago and today his work is held in many collections including London Transport Museum and the Imperial War Museum. Schleger’s bold graphic designs often wittily incorporate a play on the image of a circle or zero and have stylistic affinities with German refugee John Heartfield’s photomontage. After the war Christian Barman, Publicity Officer for London Transport, who had previously commissioned Schleger to design posters to warn passengers to take care during the blackout, now asked him to produce a series of poster designs celebrating ordinary LPTB employees. Art historian Jonathan Black has noted how Schleger relished the commission because ‘he had lived in London throughout the Blitz and felt greatly indebted to the wry, quiet courage of thousands of transport workers, firemen, ARP wardens and the members of Heavy and Light Rescue Teams, who allowed him to make frequent journeys to the offices of the Ministry of Information and of the LPTB, in the bomb ravaged centre of the city. The Hands At Your Service series of posters, the last he produced which are imbued with the spirit of the war, were very much his personal tribute to ordinary Londoners whose courage he found extraordinary. Indeed, they provided shining proof that people in uniform were there to serve rather than intimidate or coerce the public’.
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Dorothy Bohm (1924 Königsberg, East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia) – Lives London, England) Torn Poster, South Bank, London, 1984 Photograph 64 x 43.8 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by the artist 2007
Dorothy Bohm was born into a German-speaking family of Jewish-Lithuanian origin in Königsberg, East Prussia (now Kaliningrad, Russia) in 1924 and sent to England by her family in 1939, at the age of 14. As her father kissed her goodbye, he handed her his own Leica camera saying, ‘it may be useful one day’. During the Second World War, Bohm studied photography in Manchester and opened her own portrait studio at the age of 21. In the late 1940s her interest in outdoor photography was stimulated by frequent visits to the Swiss Lakes when she began to focus on photographing people unposed and within the natural environment. Afterwards, she spent a year in Paris, then continued to travel widely. Her early black-and-white photographs are in the tradition of the innovative humanist street photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, Manuel Álvarez Bravo and André Kertész, whom she knew and admired. When she began to work in colour in the 1980s, she added a new sensuousness and tactility to her work. Focusing increasingly on easily overlooked details from the everyday world, she began creating complex, semi-abstract images in which the human presence is nonetheless always implicit. She has commented of her work: ‘The photograph fulfils my deep need to stop things disappearing. It makes transience less painful and retains something of the special magic, which I have looked for and found. I have tried to create order out of chaos, to find stability in flux and beauty in the most unlikely places.’ Dorothy Bohm is a co-founder of the Photographers’ Gallery, London. This close-up photograph of a billboard hoarding is one of a series of works featuring torn posters, graffiti and other urban ephemera, which Bohm captured after observing, then waiting (sometimes months) for her subject to ‘mature’. The resulting partly eroded and weather-ravaged image resembles, in its distressed condition, a strongly coloured and multi-layered collage. Although the original meaning is lost, the possibilities are multiplied as each fragment hints at past dramatic events. The inclusion, for example, of a head thrown back in agony (lower left) from Picasso’s Guernica (1937), expressing the artist’s horror at the bombing of the Basque town by Franco’s German allies during the Spanish Civil War, has been juxtaposed with the face of a woman wearing a soldier’s helmet (upper right). Both are disturbing intimations of conflict, somewhat offset by fragments of sky and landscape, seemingly offering glimpses of freedom. The torn poster is part of a powerful group of works which represent, as Monica Bohm-Duchen has commented, ‘a palimpsest of contemporary western culture which forcefully conveys its fickleness’.
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Sonia Delaunay (née Sarah Ilinitchna Stern, aka Sonia Terk) (1885 Gradizhsk, Russia (now Ukraine) – 1979 Paris, France) Illustration for Rythmes et Couleurs, 1966 Pochoir 53.2 x 38.2 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by Robert Lewin 1993
Sonia Delaunay was born in 1885 in Gradizhsk, Russia (now Ukraine) and adopted by her maternal uncle at the age of five, taking his surname of Terk. She grew up in St. Petersburg exposed to music and art and learned several foreign languages. In 1903 she moved to Germany to study drawing and two years later, travelled to Paris, studying at the Académie de la Palette, and discovering the work of Cézanne, Van Gogh, Pierre Bonnard, and Edouard Vuillard, as well as Matisse and Derain. In 1908 she married the German collector and art dealer, Wilhelm Uhde (1874–1947), whose Montparnasse Galerie Notre-Dame des Champs showed her first solo exhibition. Through Uhde, Sonia encountered many painters, including Picasso, Georges Braque, Maurice de Vlaminck, and Robert Delaunay (1885–1941), whom, after divorcing Uhde by mutual agreement, she married in 1910 and had a son in 1911. Together Sonia and Robert Delaunay pursued the use of abstract colour in painting and textile design. One of her first large-scale works was the painting of the Bal Bullier (1912– 1913), a popular Parisian dance hall. The Delaunays were ardent promoters of abstract art, became members of the Abstraction-Création group in 1931 and organized the first Salon des Réalités Nouvelles in 1939. In 1953 the Galerie Bing mounted a solo exhibition of her work, and she also participated in exhibitions in Paris and Rome. In 1964 (following the donation of 117 works by herself and her husband), Delaunay became the first living female artist to have a retrospective at the Louvre. She died in Paris in 1979. In 1964 Delaunay formed a close friendship with the poet Jacques Damase and in July 1965 they collaborated on the illustrated book, Rythmes et Couleurs, which brings together Delaunay’s abstract visual ‘poetry’, using circle and square motifs, with Damase’s verbal rhymes in eleven pochoirs (a stencil process for making coloured prints) including the cover. This image from page 23, accompanies Damase’s text (page 21). The book was printed by Ettore Falchi and published by Editions de la Galerie Motte in Paris in a limited edition of 100 copies in 1966.The work was presented to the Ben Uri Collection by Polish émigré dealer Robert ‘Bob’ Lewin, who with his wife Rena opened a gallery in Brook Street, London, exhibiting and selling work by modern artists including Eileen Agar, Jean Arp, Alexander Calder, Alfred Cohen, André Derain, Paul Klee, Henry Moore, Victor Vasarely, as well as Delaunay herself.
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Naum Gabo (né Naum Neemia Pevsner, Neyemiya Borisovich Pevzner) (1890 Bryansk, Russia – 1977 Connecticut, USA) Opus XIX (Composition in Blue), 1969 Lithograph on paper 44.4 x 31 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by Miriam Gabo (the artist widow) 1987
Constructivist art pioneer Naum Gabo was born into a Jewish family in Bryansk, Russia in 1890. He began making constructed sculpture in Norway in 1915 (where he also changed his name from Pevsner to avoid confusion with his brother Antoine) but returned to Russia at the time of the Revolution. In 1920 Gabo wrote the Realistic Manifesto, an expression of the aims and philosophy behind his art. Two years later, he left Russia for Berlin to exhibit in The First Russian Art Exhibition at the Van Diemen Galerie; he remained in the city until 1932, making constructed sculptures and a number of architectural projects. He then spent four years in Paris, before moving to England in 1936, where he edited Circle: International Survey of Constructive Art (1937) with Leslie Martin and Ben Nicholson, participated in a number of exhibitions and married the painter Miriam Israels. He spent the war years in Cornwall (where his daughter, Nina, was born), but in 1946 the family re-settled in the USA. Gabo continued to exhibit widely throughout America (taking American citizenship in 1952) and Europe, lecturing at Yale and Chicago, teaching at the Harvard University Graduate School of Architecture (1953-54) and delivering the A.W. Mellon Lectures in 1959 in Washington DC. He completed a number of large commissions, including a 25-metre-high free-standing sculpture for the Bijenkorf Building in Rotterdam. In 1971 he was awarded an Honorary KBE by Queen Elizabeth ll. He continued to receive honours, prizes, commissions and international recognition until the end of his life. He died in Connecticut in 1977. This is one of a number of colour lithographs bearing the series title ‘Opus’ in which Gabo explored fluid sculptural forms using a two-dimensional format. He first began printmaking in 1950 after meeting with William Ivins (formerly curator of prints at the Metropolitan Museum), who visited his studio with a printmaker’s kit – comprising a wood block, cutting tools, paper, and inks – and also offered practical advice. Gabo became absorbed by the possibilities of printmaking, experimenting with colour, tone, paper (he preferred Japanese), the orientation of the image, and with the type of wood used for the blocks including boxwood, pearwood, cherrywood, and even a piece of mahogany sawed off from a piece of furniture. He continued to make prints for the next quarter of a century.
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Marcel Janco (né Marcel Hermann Iancu) (1895 Bucharest, Romania – 1984 Ein Hod, Israel) Paradise Perdu (Paradise Lost, aka Abstract Composition), 1965 Colour lithograph 60 x 41 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by David Ellis Jones 2012
Visual artist, architect and art theorist Marcel Janco was the co-inventor of Dadaism and a prominent exponent of Constructivism in Eastern Europe. He began his artistic career in 1912 creating illustrations for the Romanian Symbolist art magazine Simbolul, co-edited with his friends Ion Vinea and Tristan Tzara, prior to his architecture studies in Zurich (1914–16). There, he co-founded with Jean Arp, Hans Richter and Tzara, the Cabaret Voltaire group from which the anarchic Dada movement (and afterwards its eponymous journal, 1917–21) emerged, in revolt against traditional values, following artistic disillusionment as a result of the First World War. Janco commented, ‘We had lost the hope that art would one day achieve its just place in or society. We were beside ourselves with rage and grief at the sufferings and humiliation of mankind’. His constructions, coloured reliefs, Cubist paintings, masks and collages, drew on Art Nouveau, Futurism and Expressionism and sought to bring together abstract painting and architecture. In 1919 Janco abandoned Dada to co-found with Arp a Constructivist circle, Das Neue Leben (The New Life), which aimed to remove barriers between ‘fine’ and ‘applied art’ and to redefine the role of the artist in society, with exhibitions in Basle, Berne and Zurich (1918–20). In 1921 Janco visited Paris, returning to Romania the following year and founding the avant-garde group Contimporanul, which advocated a mix of Constructivism, Futurism and Cubism and published a journal of the same name. At Contimporanul, Janco brought a revolutionary approach to urban planning, designing some of Bucharest’s most innovative landmarks. Subjected to anti-Semitism in Romania, however, he left for Mandatory Palestine in 1941, settling in Tel Aviv. In the 1940s Janco abandoned abstraction for an Expressionist style in which he depicted his new surroundings using a brighter palette more reflective of the local light and also moving towards a more abstract style. He joined forces with other artists including Yosef Zaritsky and Moshe Castel, in founding the Ofakim Hadashim (New Horizons) group, which combined elements of abstract European art with Eastern motifs and a style similar to that in contemporaneous Europe. In 1953 Janco established an artists’ colony at Ein Hod, winning the Dizengoff Prize and Israel Prize. Janco’s lithograph belongs to this later period of his work in Israel when he returned to abstraction in a more lyrical vein than that of his earlier work.
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Margarete ‘Grete’ Marks (née Margarete Heymann) (1899 Cologne, Germany – 1990 London, England) Composition, c. 1960 Ceramic tiles 46 x 46 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by the artist
Margaret Marks was born Cologne, Germany and studied as a ceramicist under Itten at the Bauhaus, going on to establish a highly successful pottery factory with her first husband, Gustav Loebenstein, in 1923, from which her progressive designs were exported to prestigious clients including Heal’s and Liberty in England. After her husband’s death in 1928, Marks continued running the factory until 1934, when the Nazis forced her to sell it, far below its value, to a member of the party. Marks left for Britain in 1936, helped by her connections to Ambrose Heal’s export manager. Initially, she worked for Minton Pottery, among others, where she continued to produce her own radical, avant-garde designs but was unable to recapture her earlier success with a more conservative British audience. Marks continued her creative career concentrating on painting, drawing and lithography, although she remains best-known for her ceramics. Exhibitions of her work have been held at the Burslem School of Art (1937), solo shows at the Bloomsbury Gallery (1938), Redfern Gallery (1954), Roland, Browse & Delbanco (1956)m Ben Uri (1979), and Hael Pottery (Velten, ner Berlin, 2006). A joint exhibition with Pamina Liebert-Mahrenholz was held at the Boundary Gallery, London (September 2008). Her work is held in collections in Berlin (including the Bauhaus Archiv), Brandenburg, New York, Illinois, Munich, London (British Museum, V&A, Royal Festival Hall, Ben Uri), Kendal (Abbot Hall) and Stoke (Stokeon-Trent Museum). Marks’ boldly coloured ceramic engages with postwar abstraction and demonstrates her continuing artistic experiments.
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Laura Green (1979 London, England – Lives London, England) Albert Dock, 2005 Oil on board 20 x 30 cm Presented by the artist 2006
Laura Green was born in London, England in 1979. She trained at Chelsea College of Art and Design (1997–98), Birmingham Institute of Art and Design and the Royal College of Art, London, where she was awarded the Bazil Alkazzi Scholarship for Painting. She was shortlisted for both the John Moore’s 23 (2004) and 24 (2006) Exhibitions of Contemporary Painting and was a finalist for the Celeste Art Prize (2007). She has exhibited at venues including ArtSway (2009), the Custard Factory, Birmingham (2000), Birmingham Conservatoire (2000), and the North Stand Complex, Arsenal Stadium (1998). Her work is in collections including the Imperial Health Charity Art Collection and Royal College of Art. Steeped in history, the Royal Albert Dock complex in Liverpool of dock buildings and warehouses was once at the heart of the mercantile shipping industry and is now home to Tate Liverpool. Laura Green’s isolated structure suggests the legacy of its industrial past, although her intentions remain deliberately and teasingly ambiguous. She observes of her practice: ‘I am interested in curious objects and spaces that surprise me in my passage through the world. I am drawn to these objects initially because something unquantifiable about their form moves and captivates me. They are often man-made objects or structures. They seem to take themselves seriously. I see an earnest dignity in the objects I select in which I find a dialogue between humour and pathos. The process of making a painting involves making drawings through which I explore and take ownership of the image, internalising and gradually unravelling it. The objects depicted appear alien to their surroundings and possess a feeling of ‘otherworldliness’. The real is explored and manipulated to create paintings seeming to be caught in a ‘third space’ - a world that is not quite ‘the real’ and not quite ‘the imaginary’’.
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Sandra Blow (1925 London, England – 2006 Truro, Cornwall, England) Drawing No. 21, 1969 Crayon, gouache and oil on paper 18 x 14 cm Ben Uri Collection Purchased c. 1969
Sandra Blow was born into a Jewish family in Stoke Newington, London in 1925 and began to draw and paint during the Second World War, while staying with her grandparents in Kent. She studied at St. Martin’s School of Art, under Ruskin Spear (1941–46), then, briefly at the Royal Academy (1946–47), before enrolling under Nicolas Carone at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome in 1947, meeting Italian art informel artist Alberto Burri, who encouraged her interest in abstraction. They travelled throughout Italy for a year, briefly living and working together in Paris. After her return to England in 1950, she committed fully to abstraction, experimenting with collage and materials including hessian, PVC, paper, plaster, ash, tea, sawdust and sand, and was at the forefront of the abstract art movement in Britain during that decade, securing her first solo show at leading London gallery Gimpel Fils in 1951, where she continued to exhibit regularly until the mid-sixties. Gimpel Fils also secured her first solo show in New York and initiated her contact with the artist community of St Ives, where she moved in 1957 for a year. Following her first painting sale, to Roland Penrose (a founder of the ICA), Blow’s career took off. She featured in the first John Moores biannual exhibition in Liverpool (1957), was included in the Young Artists Section at the Venice Biennale (1958), won the International Guggenheim Award (1960), second prize at the John Moores exhibition (1961), and an Arts Council Purchase Grant Award (1965). She also regularly participated in group shows of contemporary British art in Italy, Holland, Germany, the USA, and later, Australasia. Further solo shows were held at the New Art Centre, London (1966, 1968, 1971, 1973) and Clare College, Cambridge (1968). Between 1960 and 1975, she also taught painting at the Royal College of Art and had a large studio in Sydney Close, Chelsea. She became a Royal Academician in 1978 with retrospectives at the Royal Academy (1994) and Tate St Ives (2001). Blow considered herself an ‘academic abstract painter’, primarily concerned with balance and proportion, ‘issues’, she observed, ‘that have been important since art began’. Her often large, non-figurative work, has been described as ‘gestural and impulsive in form’, and often includes collage and non-traditional materials. Here she uses bold upward sweeps of colour to create drama and dynamism. Blow exhibited in mixed shows at Ben Uri in 1954, 1956, 1960 1966; 1970 and 1977; and in May 1969, Drawing no. 21 was among the five works she exhibited at Ben Uri in a mixed show with contemporaries Henry Inlander, Leon Kossoff, Helena Markson and Archibald Zeigler.
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Michael Rothenstein (1908 London, England – 1993 London, England) The Love Machine, 1970 Etching 66.5 x 72.5 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by the artist 1990
Michael Rothenstein was born in 1908, the second son of the distinguished artist Sir William Rothenstein (1872–1945), Rector of the Royal College of Art; he grew up in a vibrant artistic household where visitors included Augustus John, Wyndham Lewis and Barnett Freedman; his elder brother John (1901–1992) became a noted director of the Tate Gallery. Home-schooled due to a lengthy childhood illness, Michael Rothenstein studied at Chelsea Polytechnic and the Central School of Arts and Crafts. During the late 1930s he concentrated on Neo-Romantic landscapes and in 1940 he was commissioned to paint topographical watercolours of endangered sites in Sussex for the Recording Britain project organised by the Pilgrim Trust. In the early 1940s he moved to the north Essex village of Great Bardfield, which developed an active artistic community. His first solo show was held at Redfern Gallery, London in 1942. During the post-war period, Rothenstein became increasingly fascinated by printmaking, enhanced by time spent working with Stanley Hayter at the renowned progressive Atelier 17 in Paris. From the mid-1950s, almost abandoning painting in preference to printmaking, he began working with linocut, silkscreen and etching, tending towards abstraction in the 1960–70s, the period of his greatest experimentation. Rothenstein taught for many years at Camberwell School of Art and Stoke-on-Trent College of Art; was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy (ARA) in 1977 and a Royal Academician (RA) in 1984. A retrospective was held at Stoke-on-Trent City Museum and Art Gallery in 1989. Rothenstein worked in both abstract and figurative styles and The Love Machine, which combines both, also indicates his Pop Art sympathies. It depicts a woman’s eye in which the photographer and his camera are reflected, surrounded by bands of metal strips stencilled in bright colours and is based upon a newspaper cutting showing the photographer Roger Murray Leach reflected in the eye of actress Sandra Fehre. Rothenstein believed that the image expressed ‘the conflict between what we see for ourselves and what the camera shows us’.
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Michael Kovner (1948 Hadera, Israel – lives Israel and USA) Untitled Gouache on paper 21 x 29.5 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by the artist 2015
Michael Kovner was born in 1948 in Hadera, Israel, son of Vitka Kovner, one of Israel’s leading modern poets. He was raised on Kibbutz Ein-Hachoresh, where he connected with the natural landscape at an early age: ‘I was deeply attracted to the physical beauty of the world and wanted to give expression to that love through painting,’ he recalls. After army service, Kovner studied with Philip Guston, Jack Tworkov, Steven Sloman and Mercedes Matter among others, at the New York Studio School between 1972 and 1975. The experience and influences of this milieu remain evident in his work. Kovner has held many solo exhibitions at museums and galleries including the Museum of Israeli Art and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in Israel and the Contemporary Jewish Museum (San Francisco, USA). His paintings are in major international public and private collections including The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, the Israeli President’s Residence (Jerusalem) and The Jewish Museum (New York). Kovner’s work combines a love of landscape – both pastoral and urban – with a love of colour. American art critic Donald Kuspit observed in 2010: ‘Kovner’s impressionisticexpressionistic rendering of nature [reflects] his aesthetic love affair with nature’, describing his paintings as ‘radiant and intense with light and colour… aesthetic delights’.
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Vikki Slowe (1947 London, England – 2013 London, England) Abstract Construction with Yellow No. 1 Acrylic and painted wood on board 34 x 34 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by the artist 2008
Painter and printmaker Vikki Slowe was born in London in 1947. She studied at the London College of Fashion and Camden Arts Centre and with the painter and printmaker, David Smith (with whom she also exhibited in a joint show with ceramicist Kuzan Hata in 1993). In 1980 she was elected a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, for whom she was also Honorary Curator. Following her recovery from serious illness, she became interested in the benefit of art in hospitals and was a member of the art committees for St Mary’s and the Royal Free hospitals in London. Her work was included in mixed exhibitions at Ben Uri (1970), the Royal Academy Summer exhibition (1973, 1975 and 1988), and she also participated in both solo and mixed exhibitions in Japan, New York, Paris and Singapore. Her work is in collections including the Ashmolean in Oxford, the Smithsonian, Washington and the Tel Aviv Museum in Israel. Vikki Slowe commented of her work, ‘I offer no profound or philosophical explanation of my work. I rely on my instinct to produce abstract images. I hope that the proportion, balance and harmony of them will please the viewer’.
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Mario Dubsky (1939 London, England – 1985 London, England) Abstract (I), 1972 Screenprint 75 x 74.6 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by Barbara Dubsky and her family 2006
Mario Dubsky was born in London to Viennese Jewish parents who had arrived as refugees on the eve of the Second World War. He entered the Slade School of Fine Art at the age of 17 and was mentored by Dorothy Mead, a mature student who had studied with Bomberg and was a founder member of the Borough Group, and passed on what Dubsky referred to as ‘Bombergian precepts’; he also bought some of Bomberg’s work from the artist’s widow, Lilian Holt, which he kept for the rest of his life. Dubsky was influenced by tutors Robert Medley and Keith Vaughan, the latter befriending him. In 1963 he went to Rome on an Abbey Major Scholarship which gave him the opportunity to travel widely around Europe. Upon his return to London, his work was included in the New Generation exhibitions at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1966 and 1968, and in 1969 he had his first solo exhibition at the Grovesnor Gallery. With the aid of a Harkness Fellowship, Dubsky travelled to America from 1969–71, living in New York from 1973–74, where together with John Button, he co-created a paint and collage mural at the then-headquarters of the Gay Activists Alliance (later destroyed). During the 1960s and 70s Dubsky taught at art schools including Brighton, Camberwell and Wimbledon, was artist-in-residence at the British School in Rome (1982) and tutor at the Royal College of Art (1981–85). His work is in public collections including the Arts Council of Great Britain, the Ruth Borchard Collection and Tate. His last solo exhibition, X Factor 1984, at South London Gallery included Cabaret Valhalla (Tate). Shortly before his death, Dubsky won the Tolly Cobbold Drawing Prize. He died in 1985 and is buried in Highgate Cemetery. In the late 1960s Dubsky’s work became more abstract and colourful, although he returned to figuration later in the 1970s. Abstract (I), one of three screenprints in a related series in the Ben Uri Collection, also makes visual reference to the collage technique he employed in other abstract pieces.
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David Lan-Bar (né David Langberg)
Untitled I, 1965
David Lan-bar was born David Langberg in Poland in 1912 and later moved to Paris, where he became part of the loose association of largely Jewish, Eastern European émigrés, known as the Second Ecole de Paris, mixing with Ossip Zadkine, Jacques Lipschitz and André Lanskoy, among others. His early figurative works were executed in an Expressionist manner but after 1950, he embraced Abstract Expressionism with great freedom of form and colour. He held his first exhibition at the Galerie Breteau in Paris and went on to exhibit widely including at the Biennial of Sao Paulo, the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Carnegie Institute (Pittsburgh) and San Francisco Museum of Art. His work is held in collections including MOMA in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Oil on canvas Ben Uri Collection Presented by Alexander Margulies 1987
The abstract forms and colourful, almost textured surface of Untitled (II), compressed into a narrow vertical format, focuses attention on Lan-Bar’s energetic paint handling.
(1912 Rava-Russkaye, Poland – 1987 Paris, France) RIGHT:
Untitled (II), 1987 Oil on board 100 x 54 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by Alexander Margulies 1987 BELOW:
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Annette Rowdon (1931 Berlin, Germany – 1996 London, England) Spiral, 1985 Lithograph on paper 37 x 66.5 cm Ben Uri Collection Purchased 1986
Annette Rowdon was born in Berlin, Germany, and raised in America. She studied German literature at Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, before moving to London, where she attended the Central School of Arts and Crafts (1954–58), going on to study sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome. She held a residency at Wilson College, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (1978) and was associate professor of art at Marlbor College, Vermont (1980–85), before studying for a teacher’s certificate in London and going on to teach at Chelsea School of Art and, then, in Italy and Austria. She was known primarily as a sculptor in bronze, plaster, clay, stone and marble, she executed a bust of Ecole de Paris artist Marevna in 1973, and her portrait busts are in collections including: Sir David Willcocks (the Royal College of Music) and publisher Samuel Fischer (National Museum, Marbach). She held joint exhibitions at Ben Uri in London (1986) and Livorno, Italy (1992) and a solo exhibition in Berlin in 1983. Rowdon brought the same feeling for form to her works on paper as can be found in her better-known sculptural pieces with a freedom of mark balanced by the judicious application of limited colour.
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Willy Tirr (né Willy Tichauer) (1915 Stettin, Germany (Szczecin, Poland) – 1991 Leeds, England) Flight III, 1983 Watercolour on paper 75.8 x 55.7 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by Mrs Erika Tirr, the artist’s widow 1993
Willy Tirr (né Tichauer) was born into a secular, Jewish family in Stettin, Germany, in 1915 and raised in Berlin. Following the rise of Nazism, he fled to England in June 1939. In 1940, following the introduction of internment, he was sent to Australia aboard the infamous SS Dunera; upon release in 1941, he joined the army, serving in the Intelligence Corps. Following his marriage in 1942, he changed his name to Tirr and moved to Leeds. A self-taught painter, he was initially appointed in 1957, alongside Jacob Kramer, to teach amateur evening classes at Leeds College of Art, going on to become Head of Fine Art in 1968, a post he held until his retirement in 1980. He painted in a self-built studio adjoining his house, moving among an artistic circle which included Terry Frost (with whom he held a joint exhibition in York in 1957). He had a solo exhibition at Ben Uri in 1965 and in 1984 became artist-in-residence at the University of Wollongong, Australia, when musician Edward Cowie observed of his work that ‘Neither the tragedy of war, the passions of love and friendship, the tides of experience thrown up by the world journeyings or the ebb and flow of public taste in the arts has ever caused him to lose integrity or a richly spiritual personal identity.’ Tirr’s abstract meditations on flight draw on both the American Abstract Expressionist movement and his admiration for J.M.W. Turner’s watercolours and the work of the St Ives painters. Between the 1960s and 1980s he developed an interest in capturing the movement and fluidity of flight, drawing on his traumatic experience as a refugee, admitting that for him there was ‘an obsessive significance in the double meaning of the term’. The Northern Echo reviewer described Tirr’s abstract watercolours in 1957 as ‘staining his paper with the savoir-faire of a tachiste’, saying ‘many new and wonderful things ... (some) suggest an almost oriental feeling for atmospheric effect’. A later reviewer admired the exhilaration they suggested, likening Tirr’s manipulation of his materials to that of a musician, achieving ‘a play of tone that suggests mood’.
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Hervé Constant (1951 Casablanca, Morocco – Lives London, England) Abstract Oil on canvas 160 x 160 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by Earl Estates 2019
Hervé Constant is a London-based artist, born in Casablanca to a French father and a Moroccan-Jewish mother. He studied acting at the Conservatoire de Toulon (1967–70) and at the Ecole Nationale Superieure des Arts et Techniques du Theatre, Paris (1971–73), then etching and silkscreen techniques at the Beaux-Arts de Toulon (1980–83). His wide-ranging artistic practice includes painting, video, photography, sounds and Artist’s Books. He has held more than 30 solo exhibitions in France, Italy, the UK, Japan, and elsewhere, and has taken part in more than 50 group exhibitions. He has also participated in a number of international artists’ residencies. In 1995 he held a joint exhibition, As Above ... So Below’: Recent Paintings by Hervé Constant and Yair Meshoulam, at Ben Uri Gallery in Dean Street, Soho. Contant’s ostensibly simple abstract is achieved through a highly structured technique and finish, balancing and repeating grid-like constructions and elements to create echoes and repetitions that play with notions of surface and depth, underpinned by a dramatic but limited palette. This work was included in Hervé Constant’s 1995 exhibition As Above... So Below at Ben Uri Gallery, curated by Julia Weiner, who observed of Constant’s abstracts that, ‘Rather than offering the viewer easy solutions to how his paintings should be read, Contant encourages one to study his works independently and find one’s own meaning’. The artist himself described the work as ‘a spiritual painting’ expressing his feelings about Christianity with the central square representing the coming together of God and Jesus.
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Zory Shahrokhi (b. Iran – Lives London, England) Revolution Street 2, 2019 Fabric, charcoal and soft pastel 57 x 82.5 cm Ben Uri Collection Commissioned in 2018 by Ben Uri in response to the exhibition Liberators: 12 Extraordinary Women Artists from the Ben Uri Collection
Zory Shahrokhi is a British-Iranian visual artist based in Greater London. Her practice responds to a concern in exploring cultural/political agendas and employs performance in relation to installation and photography. She examines a wide range of media processes, as well as sculpture and time-based imagery. She works with abstract representations of the human body to communicate literally and metaphorically, using domestic objects such as safety pins, spoons, cloth, rose blossoms, and hair. While her artistic expression is influenced by her background, it is also concerned with more universal issues around the contemporary human condition and breaches in human rights. She is primarily interested in the issues and perceptions around displacement, exploitation and gender oppression. This is the second of two related pieces which form the artist’s commissioned response to the exhibition Liberators: 12 Extraordinary Women Artists from the Ben Uri Collection (2017). The title refers to ‘the Girls of Enghelab (Revolution) Street’ movement, started in central Tehran in 2018, after a woman removed her headscarf in protest against the compulsory wearing of the hijab. The piece also incorporates swallows made from Persian cloth given to the artist by her friends and family, referencing her installation Flying (2016). The companion piece of the same title also features the swallow motif within a diamond-shaped headscarf.
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Lélia Pissarro (1963 Paris, France – lives London, England) L’Intime et L’interdit (The Intimate and the Forbidden), 2006 Transparent diamond dust on paper 60 x 72.2 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by the artist 2006
Lélia Pissarro was born in 1963 in Paris, France. She was raised, until the age of eleven, by her grandparents in Clécy, Suisse Normandy, where her interest in drawing and painting was nurtured by her grandfather Paulémile (the youngest son of Camille Pissarro), who taught her the fundamental Impressionist and Post-Impressionist techniques. When she returned to her parents in Paris, her father, H. Claude Pissarro, tutored her until she enrolled at l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in the 1980s. In 1988 she moved to London, where she has since exhibited frequently, as well as internationally, gradually moving from the traditional Post-Impressionist technique towards a more contemporary style. In 2005, she became fascinated with the subject of footwear and produced a series of works including shoes and boots, symbolizing and playing with notions of femininity, sensuality and sexuality. The use of sparkling glitter, mixed with oil paint and acrylic, lends vitality to this otherwise static representation of an immobile shoe. This work was originally commissioned for the charity Ovarian Cancer Action.
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Marisol Cavia (1952 Salamanca, Spain – Lives London, England) Touch Me if You Dare, 2008 Sculpture, metal and textile 13 x 32 x 12 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by the artist 2012
Marisol Cavia was born in 1952 in Salamanca, Spain and has been living and working in London since 1973. She studied Languages at the School of Commerce in Bilbao and later pursued her interest in Art studying Drawing and Sculpture at the School of Liberal Arts in Surrey. She holds a BA (Hons) in Ceramics from the University of Westminster. Marisol has taken part in numerous exhibitions, both in museums and private galleries, in England, Spain, Germany, Italy and the USA. She works in a variety of media such as installations, sculpture, photography, video and performance. Her work reflects her passion for life and explores everyday issues of love, death, friendship and deception amongst others. She likes public interaction in her work and some of her installations have involved more than a hundred participants. She has observed of this work: ‘A seamstress’ nightmare where her workplace has become a semi-real dungeon – tables too small, needles too large, a place she does not recognise. Her tools have become her nightmare. Before, she had associated them with drudgery, toil and the routine of hard work. They were a nuisance, but nothing more. Now, her tools have become vicious and her nightmare real. A heart-shaped pincushion stabbed mercilessly thousands of times by small, spiteful pins; velvet reams of blood gushing from the cushion in uniformed synchronicity. Her torments have become almost physical. Her nightmare is real’. This work was included in the exhibition Schmatte Couture, curated for Ben Uri by contemporary artist Sarah Lightman at the Rivington Gallery in London’s East End in 2008.
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Ruth Schreiber (1947 London, England – Lives Jerusalem, Israel) Childhood Remembered Sculpture, textiles, sweets and shoes 100 x 56 x 15 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by the artist 2009
Ruth Schreiber was born in 1947 in London and currently lives and works in Jerusalem, where she moved in 1980. She has a BSc in Economics, a BA in Psychology, an MA in Museum Studies and a Diploma in the History of Art, and, after raising her children, also studied for the MFA at Bezalel Academy of Arts in Jerusalem (2003–05). She now balances her artistic practice with her work as a guide in art, archaeology and Judaica at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Childhood Remembered is one of a series of works in which Ruth Schreiber evokes memories of childhood, both real and imagined. The transparency of the industrial material represents the nature of dreams and memories as elusive and unreliable; neither the dresses nor the sweet-crammed Mary-Jane shoes are suitable for wearing. The artist has observed: ‘This work is based on old photos of myself as a girl, dressed in proper coats and hats even for outings to the seaside! By transforming the fabrics into materials, which are unfamiliar and unsuitable for clothing, I am reworking the associations from the photographs and from my memories and creating a fantasy version of my childhood.’ This work was included in the exhibition Schmatte Couture, curated for Ben Uri by artist Sarah Lightman at the Rivington Galleries in London’s East End in 2008.
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Adam Kops (1956 London, England – Lives London, England) Untitled Sculpture, steel 36 x 40 x 32 cm Ben Uri Collection
Adam Kops was born in London in 1956, one of four children of the Dutch-Jewish playwright and poet, Bernard Kops (his grandfather came from the same area of Amsterdam as Anne Frank and much of his European family perished during the Second World War). Adam Kops studied at Camden Arts Centre (1980–81), Wimbledon School of Art (1982–83) and St Martin’s College of Art, and works primarily in steel, welding figures and heads. He has participated in mixed exhibitions including at the Royal Festival Hall (1986) and held solo exhibitions at the Kingsgate and Camden galleries in London from 1988. In 2000 he held a joint exhibition at the Tricycle Gallery and has also run children’s sculpture workshops for the Ben Uri Gallery and elsewhere. This untitled piece suggests elements of clothing, such as belts, buckles and stitched leather goods, associated with the earlier East End textile industry.
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John Allin (1934 London, England – 1991 London, England) RIGHT:
Brick Lane and Heneage Street, c. 1970s Lithograph 49 x 46.2 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by Jonathan Stone 1982 NEXT PAGE:
Protest at Whitechapel Road and Commercial Street, 1975 Lithograph 48.5 x 65 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by Jonathan Stone 1982
John Allin was born into a Jewish family in 1943 in East London, home at the time to a large and thriving Jewish community. He joined the Merchant Navy, and after National Service, worked in a park planting trees, then as a swimming pool attendant and finally as a long-distance lorry driver. Allin later served a six-month prison sentence (for receiving three shirts) and it was during this time that he began to paint, afterwards devoting himself entirely to his artistic career. In 1969 he had his first exhibition at the Portal Gallery, and in 1979 was the first British artist to win the international Prix Suisse Du Peinture Naïve award. Allin made his mark within what is today considered as the Folk/Outsider Art movement in Britain. Later in life, he spent three years with a circus team, producing a series of paintings based on circus life. His first book, Say Goodbye: You May Never See Them Again (1974), was produced with the Stepney-born Jewish playwright Arnold Wesker. Allin depicts the intersection between Brick Lane and Heneage Street in Spitalfields, the area which has housed successive generations of immigrant textile makers: from the French Huguenot refugee weavers in the 17th century, to the Jewish tailors who settled in the 19th-20th century - giving rise to the ‘Schmattes’ (rag trade) - later succeeded by the Bangladeshi community. Drawing on memories of his East End childhood, he includes a rabbi chatting to a group of young men outside the Heneage Street Synagogue (which closed in 1972), with Pendora’s ‘universal’ fashions above, and a horse-drawn cart trundling slowly down Brick Lane in the background.
In Protest at Whitechapel Road and Commercial Street, Allin depicts the Anti-Fascist rally known as the ‘Battle of Cable Street’, which took place in East London in 1936, in which the East End community united to protest against the British Union of Fascists ‘Blackshirts’ led by Oswald Mosley. The scene, at Gardiners’ Corner, shows thousands of protestors, waving banners worded with slogans such as ‘They Shall Not Pass’, ‘East End Unite’, and ‘No Nazis Here’. Uniformed policemen, some on horseback, prevent them from passing by barricading them with rows of furniture. There is an almost overwhelming sense of community and togetherness. It depicts thousands of people including local Jewish, communist, socialist, anarchist, and Irish groups, uniting as one in the battle against Fascism. The print was made in 1975, at a time when many Jewish people had left, or were leaving the East End for the suburbs. The artist nostalgically recalls a period from the past when a tight community was living together, sharing aims and sentiments, a reminder of the era when a thriving Jewish community, rich in culture and tradition, resided in East London.
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Chaïm Soutine (1893 Smilavichy, Russia (Lithuania) – 1943 Paris, France) Jeune Servante (Waiting Maid, also known as La Soubrette), c. 1933 Oil on canvas 46.5 x 40.5 cm Ben Uri Collection Acquired in 2012 with the assistance of the HLF, the Art Fund, the V&A Purchase Grant Fund, Miriam and Richard Borchard, Sir Harry and Lady Djanogly, Patsy & David Franks, Morven and Michael Heller, Joan and Lawrence Kaye (USA), Laura and Lewis Kruger (USA), Agnes & Edward Lee, Simon Posen (USA), The Marc Rich Foundation (Switzerland), Anthony Rosenfelder & family in honour of Marilyn, Jayne Cohen and Howard Spiegler (USA), and Judit & George Weisz
Chaïm Soutine was born to a poor Jewish family, the tenth of eleven children, in the shtetl of Smilovitz, and drew from an early age. He studied at the School of Fine Arts, Vilna (1910-13), and in the Atelier Cormon at the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris (1913– 15), becoming closely associated with the group of foreign-born, predominantly Jewish artists, known as the ‘École de Paris’. The majority including Marc Chagall, Isaac Dobrinsky, Jacques Lipchitz lived and worked together in great poverty in the studios known as La Ruche (‘the Beehive’) near the old Vaugirard slaughterhouses of Montparnasse. In 1915 Lipchitz introduced Soutine to Amedeo Modigliani with whom he developed a strong friendship. During the First World War Soutine enlisted in the work brigades but was soon dismissed on health grounds, having developed the stomach problems which would later kill him. His oeuvre includes a series of powerful, visceral landscapes and an important series of Rembrandt-inspired beef carcasses painted in a characteristic, expressionistic style. The American collector Albert Barnes bought a significant amount of Soutine’s work in 1923, affording him financial stability for the first time. He held his first solo exhibition at the Galerie Bing, Paris in 1927. In 1928 Waldemar George published the first monograph on Soutine as part of ‘les artistes juifs’ series; Elie Faure’s followed a year later. From then on Soutine worked mainly in Paris, spending the summers near Chartres with his patrons Marcellin and Madeleine Castaing. After 1941, using a false identity card, he sought refuge from occupied Paris in Touraine, but in 1943, suffering from a rapid decline in health, returned to Paris and died following a failed operation for perforated stomach ulcers. In Jeune Servante (Waiting Maid) Soutine focuses on a single subject against an unadorned background, an anonymous, working-class figure in uniform painted with typically expressive and tactile brushwork. The painting also has a second title, La Soubrette (referring to a coquettish character derived from operetta), which – possibly to encourage sales – was given when the work was offered for sale in London in 1938 in a show entitled The Tragic Painters at Alex, Reid & Lefevre Ltd., when it was also dated to c. 1925, although the original title seems closer to the artist’s intentions. Working direct from the life, Soutine captures an expression somewhere between weariness, wariness and submission, but draws attention to the maid’s inner life by emphasising her individuality. His virtuoso paint handling illuminates her white apron with a dazzling display of colour. This portrait relates to Soutine’s series of powerful character studies of pastry cooks, choirboys, boot boys, bellboys and maids, dressed in the uniforms of their professions, in exaggerated poses ranging from awkwardness to arrogance. From the 1930s Soutine’s figure paintings became less frenzied and more meditative. La Soubrette was unveiled in 2012 at the exhibition, From Russia to Paris: Chaïm Soutine and his Contemporaries and is one of only seven Soutines in British museum collections.
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Leopold Pilichowski (1866 Poland – 1934 London, England) The Labourer (Old Man in a Blue Smock) Oil on canvas 59.5 x 49 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by the artist 1930
Leopold Pilichowski was born in Poland in 1866, the son of a poor Jewish farmer. He was taught to draw by his relative, Samuel Hirszenberg, and studied in Munich and Paris, holding his first exhibition in Łódź in 1894. Around 1895 he began to address Jewish themes in his work, particularly the poverty of Jews in the cities. This commitment to social commentary led him to depict Jewish immigrants, wanderers and peddlers. In 1904 he moved to Paris and studied with Benjamin Constant, exhibiting there, as well as in London, New York and Warsaw. A decade later, in 1914, at the age of 45, he moved to London, with his wife (the artist Lena Pillico) and their children, aided by Hebrew writer David Frishman. He travelled frequently between Paris and Łódź in 1914 and upon his return to London, concentrated on the impoverished Jews of Whitechapel. He lectured at the Ben Uri Art Society in 1916, 1921, and, after becoming President in 1926 – a position he held until his death seven years later – in 1927, on, ‘Palestine As Seen By An Artist’. He also served as president of the Association of Polish Jews in London. An Exhibition of portraits, landscapes, Jewish life studies, &c. by Leopold Pilichowski was held at the Goupil Gallery, London in 1924 and he also participated in the important exhibition Jewish Art and Antiquities at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1927. His work is in collections including the National Museums of Crakow and Warsaw, the City Museum of Łódź, and the Jewish Museum, New York. This portrait of a peasant labourer with his rough blue smock and leather apron recalls scenes from the artist’s earlier life in rural Poland.
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Jacob Kramer (1892 Klintsy, Russia – 1962 Leeds, England) The Philosopher, 1922 Lithograph on woven paper 50.3 x 33 cm Ben Uri Collection Purchased 2018
A Russian-Jewish immigrant, Kramer arrived in Britain in 1900. He studied at Leeds School of Art and briefly at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, supported by Michael Sadler, modernist collector and Vice Chancellor of Leeds University, and the Jewish Education Aid Society. His Slade associates included ‘Whitechapel Boys’ Mark Gertler and David Bomberg, with whom he exhibited in 1914 as part of the ‘Jewish Section’ in a review of modern movements at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, cocurated by Bomberg and Jacob Epstein and in 1915 he was invited to exhibit with the Vorticists, but, following a crisis of confidence, he returned north. During the First World War he spent a short time as a regimental librarian, a post facilitated by Herbert Read. After the war he became known for his characteristic portraits of Leeds locals and notable visitors. Kramer exhibited regularly in Ben Uri’s Annual Exhibition of Works by Jewish Artists between 1935 and 1950; a retrospective was held at Leeds Art Gallery in 1960. Kramer’s philosopher is a portrait of ‘religious conscience’ conveyed in a modernist idiom with strongly contrasting planes of black and white. The artist had strong links with the Vorticists (although by 1922 this short-lived movement had ceased to exist) and also identified with Cubism which, he wrote, ‘succeeds in conveying the idea of a dynamic force’ (Leeds Mercury, 1928). This print marks a high point of Kramer’s modernist style and is one of his most recognisable and successful images. However, the edition was never numbered or closed, enabling the artist to sign and sell copies over many years. Portrait of a Woman in Red (aka The Gypsy) was gifted to the Ben Uri Collection in 1991 under the title A Gypsy, although this seems to be a misnomer, given that it differs greatly from Kramer’s many portraits of his sister, Sarah, c. 1917, dressed in the gypsy attire made fashionable by Augustus John. Instead, the work is closer to Kramer’s portraits of women executed in the late 1930s, including Portrait of Peggy, c. 1937, in which the sitter (although clearly a different model) wears a similar v-neck red dress.
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Jacob Kramer (1892 Klintsy, Russia â&#x20AC;&#x201C; 1962 Leeds, England) RIGHT:
Portrait of a Woman in Red (aka A Gypsy), c.1937 Oil on canvas 75 x 63 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by Rose & Bernard Gillinson 1991 LEFT:
Portrait of a Gypsy, c. 1917 pastel and chalk on paper 44 x 31 cm Ben Uri Collection presented by Dr and Mrs Victor Sandelson 2005
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Vicky (1913 Berlin, Germany – 1966 London, England) Charlemagne Pen and ink and wash on paper 59 x 39 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by Mr and Mrs Barry Fealdman 1987
Victor Weisz, or, ‘Vicky’, as he came to be known, was a Berlin-born and educated artist and political cartoonist of Hungarian-Jewish descent. His father died when he was a teenager, and he became the family breadwinner. At the age of 15, he began publishing his cartoons in the newspaper 12 Uhr Blatt, but his open opposition to Nazism led him to flee to England in 1935, where, as daily cartoonist on The News Chronicle, he became one of the most recognisable satirists in England at the time, owing to his uncompromising blend of political critique and dry humour. Comical characters such as ‘superma’c (based on Conservative leader and Prime Minister Harold Macmillan) appeared in his works with the same regularity as pieces portraying the famine in India or the effects of racial discrimination. His work has been variously compared to twentieth-century Chinese modernist woodcuts, to the prints of Käthe Kollwitz, and to the paintings of George Grosz. However, his cartoons are “not as bitter as Grosz’s, and not as heavy as Kollwitz’s” (Mulk Raj Anand). In 1958, Vicky’s 14-year tenure at The News Chronicle came to an end after he clashed with the then editor-in-chief Robert Cruikshank. Vicky relocated to The Daily Mirror, and then to The Evening Standard, where he had unparalleled liberty of expression, also contributing to the weekly New Statesman. Privately, however, this was also Vicky’s most tormented period and after suffering personal and political disillusionment, he committed suicide in 1966. Vicky’s cartoon, published in the New Statesman on 27 Dec 1958, shows the celebrated French statesman General Charles de Gaulle, former leader of the French Resistance, who as chair of the Provisional Government of the French Republic (1944– 46), had overseen the re-establishment of democracy in France. More recently, he had come out of retirement, and, as President of the Council of Ministers, rewritten the French Constitution, founding the Fifth Republic, after approval by referendum; he was elected President of France in November 1958. Vicky depicts de Gaulle in battledress as Charlemagne – who as King of France during the Early Middle Ages, had united the majority of western and central Europe – being presented with a Phrygian cap, marked with a V (symbolic of freedom and the pursuit of liberty). The supplicant is Reginald Maulding, former paymaster-general, and chair of the European free-trade area negotiations to link Britain to the six founding member states of the EEC. Unable, however, to dispel French suspicion that Britain was a Trojan horse for American interests, the project was defeated by de Gaulle’s opposition.
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Hermann Fechenbach (1897 Wurttemberg, Germany – 1986 Denham, England) Lenin, 1943 Woodcut 21.6 x 16 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by Alfred Wolmark in 1948
Painter and graphic artist Herman Fechenbach was born into a Jewish family in Württemberg, Germany. During the First World War he was conscripted into the army and severely wounded, losing a leg. Afterwards he studied in Stuttgart, Munich and Florence then travelled widely before settling in Stuttgart in 1924–5, where his work was influenced by Die Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement. He produced a number of wood engravings on Old Testament subjects (c.1930). Following racial and cultural persecution by the Nazis, he fled to Britain via Palestine, arriving in London in May 1939, where he worked as painter and wood engraver to raise funds to help his remaining family escape from Germany. During the Second World War, as part of a mass internment of so-called ‘enemy aliens’, he was interned, first in Warth Mills, near Bury, where he went on hunger strike in protest, then in Hutchinson Camp on the Isle of Man, alongside many fellow artists including Kurt Schwitters, where he produced a series of linocuts entitled My Impressions as Refugee. He exhibited in Oxford (1942), Ben Uri (1945, 1947) and at Blond Fine Art, London (1985), later published a book of wood engravings, Genesis: the First Book of Moses in 1969. This woodcut was made in England after his release from internment and features children from different races with the inscription ‘LENIN: the first statesman to enforce racial equality in practice as well as in theory’.
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Pat Schaverien (1951 London, England–present) The Swimming Pool, 1982 Etching and aquatint on paper 32 x 40 cm Ben Uri Collection Presented by Alexander Margulies 1981
Pat Schaverien was born in 1951 in Ealing, London. She studied Fine Art at Middlesex Polytechnic and Hornsey School of Art (1974–76), then Printmaking at the Slade School of Fine Art (1976) and describes herself as having been ‘fascinated by the process ever since’. She went on to set up a printmaking studio in Clerkenwell, producing etchings and aquatints. In 1977 she was the recipient of an Arts Council of Great Britain Award and over the next two decades, exhibited extensively in London including joint exhibitions at Ben Uri Art Society in 1982 and 1990. She is a member of the National Society of Painters, Sculptors & Printmakers and continues to live and work in London. Pat Schaverien describes her prints as a combination of etching and aquatint (drypoint and sugarlift); she also creates collographs, combining and layering different techniques. When etching she draws directly onto the plate using a drypoint needle to score into the metal or bites lines into the plate with acid, using aquatint to mimic the effect of a watercolour wash. Both techniques, as she notes, ‘vary in intensity’ and their effects, as in this work, can be ‘very subtle’. This composition of an empty swimming pool is eerily devoid of human presence, suggested only by the vacant swing hanging over the water at the far end, but the image also plays subtly with lines, grids and the multiplying reflections and shadows cast by the light of the window and the unpeopled urban scene beyond.
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Uriel Orlow (1973 Zurich, Switzerland – Lives London, England) In Concert, 2005 (Single screen version), single channel video with sound, 8” Ben Uri Collection Presented by the artist 2006
Artist Uriel Orlow was born in 1973, in Zurich, Switzerland and now lives and works in both London and Lisbon. He studied at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art & Design, the Slade School of Fine Art, London, and the University of Geneva, completing a PhD in Fine Art in 2002. Orlow’s work has been shown in exhibitions and film festivals throughout Europe and has been exhibited internationally at venues including Gasworks, the ICA, Tate Britain, Tate Modern and the Whitechapel Art Gallery, in London, as well as in Alexandria, Berlin, Cairo, Chicago, Dublin, Geneva, Istanbul, Marseilles, Mexico City, New York, Paris, Ramallah, San Sebastian, Toronto, Vancouver and Zurich. He is the recipient of the Sharjah Biennial prize (2017), the annual art-award of the City of Zurich (2015), three Swiss Art Awards at Art Basel (2015), and was shortlisted for the Jarman award in 2013. He has also taught at art colleges including Goldsmiths, London; Central Saint Martins, London; and the University of the Arts Geneva (Head). He is visiting professor at the Royal College of Art London and is currently Reader (Associate Professor and Senior Researcher) at University of Westminster, London and lecturer at ZHdK, the University of the Arts, Zurich. Orlow’s art explores the roles language, the image and memory play in structuring human experience. Using a wide variety of media – from video and sound to photography, billboard-posters, text and drawing, his art engages with historical sites, body memory, archives and libraries. In Concert explores the relationship between memory and the body, focusing on how memory is physically inscribed or embedded in habitual gestures. Music is a poignant example of this, as the rehearsal of a piece does not just result in it being memorised mentally but also corporeally as a cellist and pianist play the first movement of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1. without their instruments. The music operates as a kind of ghostly mnemonic prompting their physically remembered gestures.
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