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David Bomberg (1890-1957)
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David Bomberg (1890-1957)

Toledo from the Alcazar

David Bomberg (1890-1957)
Toledo from the Alcazar
signed and dated 'Bomberg 29' (lower right)
oil on canvas
26½ x 30 in. (67.3 x 76.2 cm.)
Asa Lingard; Christie's, London, 31 July 1958, lot 169, where purchased by the present owner's family.
R. Cork, David Bomberg, London, 1987, p. 185, pl. 242.
G. Polonksy, David Bomberg, London, 1990, no. 8.
London, Bloomsbury Gallery, David Bomberg Sixty Imaginative Compositions, Spanish and Scottish Landscapes and other work, November 1932, no. 1.
London, Arts Council, Tate Gallery, David Bomberg 1890-1957 Paintings and Drawings, March - April 1967, no. 50, pl. 9: this exhibition toured to Hull, Ferens Art Gallery, April - May; Manchester, City Art Gallery, May - June; Bristol, City Art Gallery, June - July; and Nottingham, Castle Museum and Art Gallery, July - August.
Leicester, Arts Council of Great Britain, Museum and Art Gallery Decade 1920-1930, February - March 1970, no. 52: this exhibition toured to Newcastle upon Tyne, Laing Art Gallery, March - April 1970; Doncaster, Museum and Art Gallery, April - May 1970; Manchester, City Art Gallery, May - June 1970; Bristol, City Art Gallery, June - July 1970 and London, Camden Arts Centre, August 1970.
Sheffield, Arts Council of Great Britain, Graves Art Gallery, Three little books about painting: 2: movement, November - December 1983, no. 13.
London, Tate Britain, David Bomberg, February - May 1988, no. 101, pl. 29.
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Lot Essay

From October 1929 to April 1930, Bomberg toured Spain, Morocco and the Greek Islands with the financial assistance of his supporter, Sir Ronald Storrs. As he was on a limited budget Bomberg decided to settle in one place, and spent the winter at Toledo, the city of El Greco, where the weather system and the effects of the light resulted in the most successful paintings of Bomberg's career.

Richard Cork (op. cit., pp. 181-82) comments on this extraordinarily productive venture, 'At Toledo, working energetically and confidently enough to complete over twenty memorable canvases within a few months, he finally arrived at the singular expressive vision which would be further developed and refined throughout his subsequent career. In a letter to Lilian, written towards the end of September, Bomberg pledged himself to pursue a more audacious approach to landscape painting. After admitting that 'I do not know whether I am doing any good', he insisted, 'I am quite sure of one thing & that is that I do not want to repeat the Palestine style & as long as I can find a broader manner of treating the infinite amount of detail I am contented. What Toledo lacks is colour. I mean gay colour. It is heavy ... in purplish greys and blacks, & would become depressing but for the fact that I am trying to paint it'. The activity of painting had become so engrossing that it gave Bomberg a feeling of purposefulness which offset the reservations he harboured about the subdued colour of Toledo in autumn'.

Bomberg was utterly absorbed by his work in Toledo, but eventually his wife joined him there, and 'found canvases like Toledo from the Alcazar [the present work] combining intricacy and gusto in equally impressive measure. It seems difficult to believe that such a robustly handled picture could have been painted out-of-doors in the chill of winter: Lilian recalled 'climbing up to the top of the Alcazar tower with him, where he was painting the grand vistas of Toledo', and she realized that 'it was very, very cold with the wind whistling through the open walls'... 'David was very happy about working in Toledo', Lilian remembered. 'He was very satisfied with the city. He didn't have much to do with Spanish people, nor indeed with anyone who lived in the countries where he worked. He never learned Spanish or any other foreign language. David didn't need people the way most of us do - he could go for days on end without seeing them'. This self-sufficiency enabled him to devote all his energies to an intimate exploration of Toledo itself, and the results of this infatuation with El Greco's city mark the return of Bomberg's fullest confidence as a painter' (R. Cork, loc. cit.).

On his return from Spain, the present work was purchased by the wealthy Northern draper, Asa Lingard. Together with the wool-merchant, Arthur Crossland, he sat on the committee of the annual spring exhibition of the Cartwright Hall Art Gallery in Bradford, and he was a regular collector of Bomberg's work.

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