From Saturday 4th December 2021 to 15th January 2022 Goldmark will hold its second major exhibition of paintings, prints and drawings by the mid-century Polish master Jankel Adler (1895-1949). A fully illustrated catalogue, with essay by Sarah MacDougall and Rachel Dickson of the Ben Uri Gallery and Museum, will accompany the exhibition.
Jankel Adler was one of many Jewish and Eastern European immigrant artists to come to Britain in the wake of the rise of Nazism. He was also among the most influential: his potent combination of cubist abstraction and expressionist angst profoundly inspired the younger generation of British artists he befriended before his premature death at the age of 53 in Aldbourne, Wiltshire.
The work in this exhibition dates exclusively to this last decade of his life after his arrival in Scotland in 1940. Deeply moved by the invasion of his home country, Adler had joined the Polish Western Forces in France. Alongside thousands of Polish troops, he was evacuated during the Dunkirk campaign and directed to Glasgow, where he was demobbed on arrival due to a heart condition. Here he was reacquainted with fellow Polish artist Josef Herman, and in 1941 began exhibiting at the Annan Gallery and J.D. Fergusson’s New Art Club.
After withdrawing for several months to the artists’ colony in Kirkcudbright, in 1943 Adler left Scotland and moved to a studio in Kensington, London, where he met the ‘Two Roberts’ Colquhoun and Macbryde. For young British painters not yet exposed to European modernism, Adler’s alternately vigorous and melancholic figure paintings and still lives left an indelible impression. In London he was also introduced to literary contemporaries (Samuel Beckett and Dylan Thomas among them) and united with other émigré artists from across the continent: Oskar Kokoschka, Kurt Schwitters, Martin Bloch and Ludwig Meidner.
Born in Tuszyn, near the industrial city of Łódź, Adler was the eighth of twelve children. Prior to WWI he moved to Germany and trained as an artist, and in the early 1920s established himself in Düsseldorf, where he befriended Otto Dix and Paul Klee. In 1933 Adler joined fellow artists and lecturers in signing an Urgent Appeal against the rise of fascism in Germany, forcing him to flee as Hitler solidified his hold on the country. He left for France and briefly painted in exile in Cagnes-sur-Mer from 1938-40 before deciding to enlist. It was only after the war, in 1945, that he learned all eleven of his siblings had been killed by the fascists.
Of the Goldmark Gallery’s first Adler exhibition, art historian Richard Cork wrote: ‘He was, above all, committed to telling the visual truth about a human race wracked by incessant warfare, deportation and the horrors of the concentration camps. That is why Adler’s achievement during these traumatic final years deserves to be fully recognised.’
Founder of the gallery Mike Goldmark, whose Austrian parents also fled the Nazis after the Anschluss, comments: ‘The legacy of Jankel Adler is extraordinary: not just the intensely moving pictures he left behind him, but the effect he had on mid-century British art, which can still be felt to this day. His work is rightly housed in the great international institutions. I’m grateful to the Aukin Trust, who handle Adler’s estate, for letting us bring it to this corner of the world.