Jankel Adler (1895-1949)

Artist Jankel Adler was born in 1895 in Tuszyn, near Lodz, Poland, into a large, orthodox Jewish family.

He studied engraving in Belgrade in 1912, then art in Barmen (now Wuppertal) and Düsseldorf until 1914. He returned to Poland in 1918, becoming a founder-member of Young Yiddish (a Lodz-based avant-garde artistic group, centred on the modernist poet Moshe Broderzon).

Work by Jankel Adler in the Ben Uri Collection

View Jankel Adler’s works in Gallery Mode

Ein Jude (c. 1926)

Ein Jude (plate) (c. 1926)

Lovers (1920)

Portrait of a Woman

Still Life

Wounded (Portrait of a man in a cap)

Jankel Adler biography

Jankel Adler was born in 1895 in Tuszyn, near Lodz, Poland, into a large, orthodox Jewish family.

He studied engraving in Belgrade in 1912, then art in Barmen (now Wuppertal) and Düsseldorf until 1914. He returned to Poland in 1918, becoming a founder-member of Young Yiddish (a Lodz-based avant-garde artistic group, centred on the modernist poet Moshe Broderzon).

First World War

During the First World War he was conscripted into the Russian army, but returned to Germany in 1920 and visited Berlin, where he met Chagall, before returning to Barmen.

In 1922 he moved to Düsseldorf, joined the Young Rhineland circle, became friendly with Otto Dix and helped found Die Kommune and the International Exhibition of revolutionary artists in Berlin. His Planetarium frescos in 1925 were highly successful and he exhibited widely.

In 1931, at the Düsseldorf Academy, he formed an important friendship with Paul Klee, who had a profound influence on his style.

Paris

In 1933, at the height of his success, Adler fled Nazi Germany for Paris after his work was declared ‘degenerate’ (he was later included in the infamous Entartete Kunst exhibition in 1937).

Adler’s arrival in Paris can be seen as part of a ‘second wave’ of artists from Russia who were drawn west to Germany, then to France.

Part of the Ben Uri permanent collection, his c. 1926 etching, Ein Jude, brings a modernist technique to a traditional subject.

Influence of Picasso

Adler returned to Paris in 1937, working with the printmaker Stanley William Hayter at Atelier 17. He soon met Picasso, who became the second major influence on his style. In Portrait of a Woman Adler employs a sombre palette and a bold, expressive style which reveals Picasso’s influence.

He joined the Polish Army upon the outbreak of the Second World War and was evacuated to Scotland in 1940, where he was demobilized owing to poor health.

Friendship with Josef Herman in Glasgow

In Glasgow, together with Josef Herman, he became a member of the Glasgow New Art club founded by J D Fergusson. He moved to London in 1943, sharing a house with ‘the two Roberts’, the painters Colquhoun and MacBryde.

He died at Aldbourne in Wiltshire, southern England, in 1949.

Find out more

Ein Jude – Ben Uri picture of the Month (November 2013)

External links

Goldmark Gallery

BBC Your Paintings