Gertler’s Study for The Violinist is his only known drawing of the young musical student who also modelled for two portraits (including two oils of the same title) and a figure study during the years 1912–14. It demonstrates the assured draughtsmanship which Gertler perfected during his remaining time at the Slade, carrying off ‘first prize for drawing of the head’ (and three further prizes for head painting), and where he also gained a reputation as the successor to Augustus John, the star pupil of a former generation. Gertler’s technique exemplifies the Italianate style impressed upon his students by the famously acerbic drawing master Henry Tonks, with a firm outline to the face, typically darkening around her right cheek and jaw, finely-modelled features and soft shading to the neck and hair. The downward-looking eyes with shapely lids and delicate lashes, found in both this work and the pencil head study of Carrington, are typical of early Italian madonnas, particularly Piero della Francesca, whose work Gertler greatly admired during this period. When he exhibited these works at the Chenil Gallery in the December 1912, he noted that they sold ‘like hot buns!’. Despite his increasingly radical experiments during the rest of the decade, this careful draughtsmanship continued to underpin Gertler’s figurative work throughout his career.
We are very grateful to Sarah MacDougall for preparing this catalogue entry and also to Luke Gertler for his assistance with researching this work.