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 David Bomberg  (1890 - 1957)

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Lived/Active: England      Known for: portrait and landscape painting

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Ad Code: 1
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from Auction House Records.
East Valley, Cuenca: Afternoon
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

David Bomberg (1890 - 1957)

David Bomberg was born in the Lee Bank area of Birmingham, the seventh of eleven children of a Polish-Jewish immigrant leatherworker.  In 1895 his family moved to Whitechapel in the East End of London where he was to spend the rest of his childhood. ? After studying art at City and Guilds, Bomberg returned to Birmingham to train as a lithographer* but quit to study under Walter Sickert at Westminster School of Art* from 1908 to 1910.  Sickert's emphasis on the study of form and the representation of the "gross material facts" of urban life were an important early influence on Bomberg, alongside Roger Fry's 1910 exhibition Manet and the Post-Impressionists*, where he first saw the work of Cézanne. ?

Bomberg's artistic studies had involved considerable financial hardship, but in 1911 he was able to attain a place at the Slade School of Art*.  The emphasis in teaching at the Slade was on technique and draughtsmanship to which Bomberg was well-suited - winning the Tonks Prize for his drawing of fellow student Rosenberg in 1911.  His own style was rapidly moving away from these traditional methods, however, particularly under the influence of the March 1912 London exhibition of Italian Futurists* that exposed him to the dynamic abstraction of Picabia and and Fry's second Post Impressionist exhibition in October of the same year, which displayed the works of Picasso, Matisse and the Fauvists* alongside those of Wyndham Lewis, Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell.

?Expelled from the Slade School of Art in the Summer of 1913, Bomberg formed a series of loose affiliations with several groups involved with the contemporary English avant-garde, embarking on a brief and acrimonious association with the of the Bloomsbury Group's Omega Workshops before exhibiting with the Camden Town Group in December 1913.  1914 saw the highpoint of his early career - a solo exhibition at the Chenil Gallery in Chelsea which attracted positive reviews from Roger Fry and T. E. Hulme and attracted favourable attention from experimental artists nationally and internationally.  With the help of Augustus John, Bomberg sold two paintings from this exhibition to the influential American collector John Quinn. ?

Bomberg's superb draughtsmanship was expressed also in a lifelong series of portraits, from the early period of his Botticelli-like Head of a Poet (1913), a pencil portrait of his friend Isaac Rosenberg for which he won the Henry Tonks Prize at the Slade, to his Last Self-Portrait (1956), painted at Ronda, a meditation also on Rembrandt. ?

Following a collapse in Ronda, Bomberg died in London in 1957, his critical stock rising sharply thereafter.  After his early success before the First World War, he was in his lifetime the most brutally excluded artist in Britain. Having lived for years on the earnings of his second wife Lilian Holt and remittances from his sister Kitty, he died in absolute poverty.


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