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:


My 100th Post: The 1910 Room at The Tate

To celebrate my 100th post, I thought a quick look at my favourite art period was called for. These two photographs epitomise what it is I love about the 1910 room at The Tate. I hadn’t considered the way in which the pieces are placed together before so decided to photograph the statues alongside the paintings yesterday.

The Arrival -CRW Nevinson

Workshop -Percy Wyndham Lewis

Singer -Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

Nevinson and Wyndham Lewis are in parallel here with their vorticist style. Together, they are a powerful example of how the movement sought to eliminate the notion of decorative art and instead, to depict modern life through a form of abstraction.

From The Tate:

This work, typical of Nevinson’s Futurist period, aroused much comment when it was exhibited in 1915 as ‘My Arrival in Dunkirk’ (that it was this work is confirmed by the contemporary reproductions in the Daily Express, 25 February 1915, and the Daily Graphic, 5 March 1915). It was probably the work already exhibited as ‘The Arrival’ the year before, when a review in the Star said of it: ‘It resembles a Channel steamer after a violent collision with a pier. You detect funnels, smoke, gangplanks, distant hotels, numbers, posters all thrown into the melting-pot, so to speak. Mr Nevinson acted as interpreter, explaining that it represented a “state of simultaneous mind”.’

Lewis’s painting Workshop epitomises Vorticism’s aims, using sharp angles and shifting diagonals to suggest the geometry of modern buildings. Its harsh colours and lines echo the discordant vitality of the modern city in an ‘attack on traditional harmony’. The group’s aggressive rhetoric, angular style and focus on the energy of modern life linked it to Italian Futurism, though it did not share the latter’s emphasis on speed and dynamism.”

Dancer -Henri Gaudier-Brzeska

La Miltrallieuse -CRW Nevinson

I love the sensuous fluidity of Gaudier’s dancer. It was influenced by theories of creative energy and of the world in a state of constant flux, proposed by the philosopher Henri Bergson. This is in stark contrast to the dark palette, sharp angles and fixed expressions and rigidity of the men who are in tune with their machines in Nevinson’s work.