Christie’s are proud to be offering 32 works from the Estate of David Bomberg (1890 – 1957) in the Modern British and Irish Art sale on 21 November. Proceeds of the sale will benefit Hadassah, a registered charity dedicated to raising funds for Hadassah Medical Organisation in Jerusalem. This diverse group of paintings and drawings by Bomberg come from Fischer Fine Art, Bomberg’s long-time dealer, and come to auction for the first time. This is the largest group of works by the artist ever to be offered at auction. Bomberg was one of the most bold and daring artists of his generation and this collection features works from all periods of his rich and varied career with estimates ranging from £1,500 to £120,000. This sale provides a unique opportunity for both new and established collectors to acquire a work of quality and enormous art historical value from this important British artist and with this unequalled provenance.
David Bomberg was born in Birmingham in 1890 to Polish-Jewish immigrant parents and at the age of five moved with his family to Whitechapel in London. In 1911, aided by a grant from the Jewish Educational Aid Society, Bomberg attended the Slade School of Art, where his exceptional talent developed. At that time the
Slade had a reputation as leading the way for the British avant-garde and actively reacting against the more traditional taste of the Royal Academy. Bomberg studied alongside an extraordinary generation of young artists including Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash, Mark Gertler, Christopher Wynne Nevinson and William Roberts. Drawing on the influence of the Futurists and Cubists who he had seen at the 1910 and 1912 ‘Post-Impressionist’ exhibitions organised by Roger Fry, Bomberg became one of the leading artists of the Vorticist movement in the period before the First World War.
Highlights of the collection include a 1931 Self-portrait (estimate: £50,000 – 80,000). On his return to London from a trip to Spain in 1929, Bomberg was met with indifference when he tried to persuade collectors and dealers to buy the canvasses he had painted in Toledo. Forced to find an alternative means of making a living, he decided to set himself up as a portrait painter. However, Bomberg’s expressive manner was considered inappropriate for portraiture; his style was unsuited to the task of gratifying his sitter’s expectations and he found it difficult to receive any notable commissions. Self-portrait belongs to a series of honest and introspective self-portraits that Bomberg made in this period. Since they were all made using a large mirror in which the artist studied his features from various angles, they offer a detailed examination of his personality. In the honest scrutiny of himself as a balding introverted character, Bomberg’s work of the period recalls Rembrandt’s great series of searching self-portraits, made 300 years earlier. Alongside this self-portrait the collection also includes portraits of the artist’s wife Lilian, his daughter Diana and his step-daughter Dinora.
During World War II Bomberg was commissioned by the War Artist’s Advisory Committee to paint an underground bomb store for a fee of 25 guineas. He was sent to Burton–on-Trent in Staffordshire where he would spend two weeks 90 feet below ground in long disused gypsum mines. Works such as Underground Bomb Store painted in 1942 (estimate: £80,000 – 120,000) are one of the many paintings Bomberg completed in this period; he worked feverishly for this commission, even working on greaseproof paper when he ran out of canvas.
Though undervalued in his lifetime, Bomberg’s legacy still influences the work of subsequent generations of figurative artists who have followed in his footsteps, such as his pupils Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff, whom he taught at Borough Polytechnic. This influence is particularly clear in East of the Moon (estimate: £60,000-80,000), the rich palette and heavy outlines of which are echoed in Auerbach’s London cityscapes. David Bomberg stands as one of the great masters of 20th century British painting.
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