More on David Bomberg

Sometimes insomnia can be a good thing as I’ve just discovered the online collection of the Ben Uri Gallery

Particularly liked Ghetto Theatre from 1920.


Painted in 1920, this is a tightly composed work reflects Bomberg’s unease following his war experiences. The gallery’s website had this to say:

In Ghetto Theatre, set in Whitechapel’s lively Pavilion Theatre, where the classics were performed in Yiddish, Bomberg returned to the subject matter and setting of a number of his earlier sketches. Possibly, he hoped to recapture something of his earlier exuberance. In contrast to his animated prewar theatre-goers however, these drably-dressed spectators with their mask-like faces and closed body language are indicative of his dismal, postwar vision. The hunched male figure (in the upper foreground) leaning wearily on a stick embodies his own personal disenchantment and the compressed space, cleaved by a bold and imposing balcony rail, echoes the claustrophobic tunnels of his wartime sappers. Only the bold sweep of red adds richness to an otherwise sombre palette. Painted on the eve of his departure from the East End, it reveals that for Bomberg, it was no longer a place of excitement and vitality. Yet elsewhere in a series of related Ghetto Theatre sketches, the artist’s looser handling once again liberates his audience from their constraints.

It is interesting to compare this work with one by Bomberg’s contemporary, William Roberts – The Cinema, also from 1920 where Roberts looks at the excitement generated by the Rise of the cinema as the main form of mass entertainment:

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