Gertler, Mark

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GERTLER, MARK (1891–1939), English artist. Gertler was born in London, the son of a furrier, but spent part of his early childhood in Poland and America. Gertler was one of the most talented and romantic first generation painters to emerge from the wave of Jewish immigration to England at the turn of the century, and is today one of the most famous of Anglo-Jewish artists. Until he went to school at the age of eight, his only language was Yiddish. Later he began attending evening classes in art and worked for a firm of glass painters. In 1908, on the advice of Sir William *Rothenstein, the Jewish Educational Aid Society sent him to the Slade School of Art. Here he found himself among the brilliant group of Jewish students which included David *Bomberg, Jacob *Kramer, Bernard *Meninsky, and Isaac *Rosenberg. In 1911, before he was 20, he painted one of his finest pictures, The Artist's Mother, one of the collection of his works in the Tate Gallery, London. When he left the Slade in 1912, he began to receive important portrait commissions. Handsome, volatile, and a brilliant raconteur, he was taken up by the Bloomsbury Group of intellectuals, and seemed destined for greatness. Gertler's early works were influenced by his life in the Whitechapel ghetto. In addition to the studies of his parents and neighbors, often in fancy dress, these include Rabbi and Grandchild (1913) and Rabbi and Rebbitzen (1914). Gertler was later influenced by post-impressionism. From 1919 onward he regularly visited the south of France. Gertler was close to many of the famous figures in the Bloomsbury Group, and was briefly the lover of one of its members, the painter Dora Carrington. He was also a friend of many other noted cultural figures of his time, including D.H. Lawrence and Aldous Huxley. His health began to deteriorate and eventually, depressed by his condition, by Hitler's anti-Jewish campaign, and by financial problems resulting from decreasing success, he committed suicide in 1939. Since his death he has become the subject of much interest by biographers and critics.


Bell, in: M. Gertler, Selected Letters, ed. by N. Carrington (1965), introduction; J. Rothenstein, British Art Since 1900 (1962), 172, plates 85,86. add. bibliography: odnb online; N. Carrington (ed.), Mark Gertler: Selected Letters (1965); S. MacDougall, Mark Gertler (2002); J. Woodeson, Mark Gertler: Biography of a Painter, 1891–1939 (1972).

[Charles Samuel Spencer]

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Gertler, Mark

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