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Jankel Adler (1895-1949)
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Jankel Adler (1895-1949)

Portrait in White and Black

Details
Jankel Adler (1895-1949)
Portrait in White and Black
signed 'Adler' (lower left)
oil on board
24½ x 20 in. (62.2 x 50.8 cm.)
Painted in July 1948.
Special Notice

No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 17.5% will be added to the buyer's premium, which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.

Lot Essay

Jankel Adler was born in Tuszyn in Poland, the eighth of twelve children, and was brought up as a Chassidic Jew. Breaking away from tradition, Adler travelled to Germany in 1916 to begin his art studies in Barmen in the Rhineland. During the 1920s he travelled widely in Europe where he formed a friendship with Otto Dix and perhaps more significantly with Paul Klee whom Adler met whilst teaching in Düsseldorf in 1931. It was probably from Klee that Adler learnt the technique of 'offset' monotype which he later passed on to many young British artists after World War II when he settled in Britain. After joining the Polish Army of the West in 1940 he was eventually evacuated to Britain from Dunkirk, living first in Glasgow and later in London in 1943.

In London he settled in a studio in Bedford Gardens above the 'Two Roberts', Colquhoun and MacBryde, whom he had previously met in Glasgow. (see introduction to the Anderson Collection above lot 22). When Adler moved into Bedford Gardens he brought with him a variety of European influences, which were of vital importance in the development of Colquhoun and MacBryde's art. John Minton also had a studio there. Adler, amongst such a creative atmosphere, quickly developed an important artistic link between the European avant-garde and several young British artists including Prunella Clough, Keith Vaughan, Benjamin Creme and Michael Ayrton. Adler, having worked in the major European art centres, offered a healthy alternative to the somewhat stifling neo-romantic art that had gone before. His figurative style and striking oultines particularly appealed to Colquhoun (see lot 29).
Portrait in White and Black was painted towards the end of Adler's career. The simple monochromatic colour scheme is very striking, whilst the augmented features are reminiscent of Picasso whom Adler met in Paris some years before. Adler's work of this period became more imaginative and expressive, evident in the soulful look on the subject's face. The sharp outlines and broad handling were typical of his later works when all he had learnt from his travels and artistic friendships came to fruition. Joanna Pollakowna comments 'It was in those final years that Adler acheived his full artistic maturity, recapitulating and sublimating his former experiences and achievements. A young enthusiast eagerly giving himself up to every new trend in European art, an artist sometimes prone to overdo a boisterous expressiveness of massive forms, he now found his own, unmistakeable voice full of resonant, carefully modulated power' ('Reflections on Jankel Adler's Art', exhibition catalogue, Jankel Adler, Düsseldorf, Kunstalle, 1985, p. 251).

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