Bomberg, David

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BOMBERG, DAVID (1890–1957), British painter. He was born in Birmingham and brought up in Whitechapel, the Jewish quarter of London. Apprenticed to a lithographer, he attended evening classes and later the Slade School. In 1914 he became a founder-member of the London Group, and participated in an exhibition "Twentieth Century Art" held at the Whitechapel Art Gallery for which he organized an international Jewish section. This was the first collection of modern Jewish art to be seen in England.

In 1923 the English painter, Sir Muirhead Bone, wrote to the British Zionist Federation urging them to employ Bomberg to record pioneering work in Palestine. Bomberg visited Palestine, but fell out with the Zionists, refusing to paint what he regarded as propaganda pictures. He spent six months at Petra, where he developed his taste for sunbaked, desolate landscapes. Later he continued his travels and painted in several countries, particularly in Spain. Bomberg then fell into poverty and neglect as his paintings fell out of favor, although he was an influential and inspiring lecturer at the Borough Polytechnic, London, where he taught from 1945 until 1953. In 1954 he returned to Spain, with the intention of founding an artists' colony, but died with the plan still unfulfilled. Bomberg's early paintings show the influence of Cubism, but remain representational; these include some Jewish subjects, such as the Jewish Theater (1913), Family Bereavement (c. 1913, commemorating his mother's death), and In the Hold and Mud Bath (1913–14), studies of a Jewish communal bath.

His later work is more emotional, painted in rich, fiery colors. Hear, O Israel, painted in Spain in 1955, represents a return to Jewish themes of his youth. In 1967 the Tate Gallery honored his memory with a comprehensive memorial exhibition.


W. Lipke, David Bomberg; a Critical Study of his Life and Work (1967). add. bibliography: odnb online; R. Cork, David Bomberg (1987).

[Charles Samuel Spencer]