Jankel Adler was born in Poland in 1895, son a of a coal merchant, brother of 11 children. In 1916 he went to study art with Prof. Gustav Wiethucher in the Barmen school of applied arts. Becoming involved with several Avant-Garde movements such as the Junge Rheinland in Dusseldorf and the Yung Yiddish group in Lodz. He was also associated with the Johanna Ey gallery circle and befriended artists such as Otto Dix (Dix painted Adler's portrait in 1926), and Elsa Lasker Schuler.
Adler was soon awarded public commissions in Dusseldorf, and in 1931 Adler and Klee worked in the Dusseldorf Art Academy and shared studios on the same floor. Adler described Klee’s influence on his work: 'Klee made the background which reflects the intricate moving of our different lives. Klee had the courage to walk this clean swept platform of the twentieth century…he made a survey of this place for others who will come'. (Adler on Paul Klee, in Horizon, pp.266).
With the rise to power of Nazi Germany, Adler was forced to flee Germany 1933, as he witnessed friends being penalized for opinions and for their association with Jews. In the years to come his works were removed from public German collections and included in the notorious 1937 Entartete Kunst exhibition. Adler settled in Paris, worked in Poland and went back to Paris in 1937 where he worked with S. W. Hayter at the Atelier 17.
With the progression of hostilities in Europe, he relocated to the South of France in 1938, and joined the Free Polish Army in 1940, before being evacuated to Glasgow. Due to poor health, he was released from the Polish army in 1941 and settled there. Adler befriended fellow Polish refugee artist Joseph Herman, developed a new style of painting very typical of the period, and met younger local artists including Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde.
During his Scottish period he painted mainly the human form, in paintings relating to his refugee status, such as the 1942 The Orphans, formerly in the collection of Joseph Herman and The Mutilated, painted in 1942 in the collection of Tate Britain. He also painted a series of tender female portraits, such as the present painting Venus of Kirkcudbright which are considered to be among the highlights of his œuvre.
In 1943 Adler and Herman relocated to London, and Adler obtained a studio space in Bedford Gardens, which became a meeting place for artists, writers and poets such as Sydney Graham, George Barker and Dylan Thomas. The young artists Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon were visitors. Colquhoun, MacBryde, John Minton, Joseph Herman and Adler had their studios in the same building.
During his London period, Adler was considered a Modernist, a member of the continental school. His work was widely exhibited in London galleries Redfern Gallery, Reid & Lefevre, Gimpel Fils, Waddington Gallery and overseas, in Belgium, Palestine and in the United States. Adler died suddenly in 1949 in the UK.
Shmuel (Zagorsky) Givon immigrated to Palestine in 1935 from Germany. He worked as an agricultural laborer in Herzliya, where he met his wife to be Tamara. In 1938 they were among the founding members of the Kfar Ruppin Kibbutz, in the valley of Beit Shaan. In 1949 the couple and young daughter left the Kibbutz and moved to Jaffa.
Givon fell in love with the art world. He became a collector before he became an art professional in 1974. He kept close ties with members of the late Paris school such as Pinchus Kremegne and Gregoire Michonze. Givon was a close friend of Nina Adler, Jankel Adler’s daughter.
The Givon collection comprised of three main themes, works by the artists of the Jewish Paris School, early Israeli art covering the formative years 1920-1930, and, in later years, he supported and collected Israeli cutting edge contemporary art, mainly by artists represented by his gallery.