Jankel Adler

(1895 - 1949)

Jankel Adler was born in the Jewish ghetto of Tuszyan, a suburb of Lodz. From a large Jewish family, Jankel was the seventh child of ten. By 1912 he had moved to Belgrade and started training to be an engraver with his uncle. He then moved to Barmen in Germany, where from 1916 he was a pupil at the school of applied arts. Whilst there he formed a relationship with Otto Dix (1891-1969), who influenced his work and painted his portrait.

Upon completion of his studies Adler moved to Düsseldorf where he became a teacher at the Academy of Arts. It was here that he became acquainted with Paul Klee (1879-1940), who had a significant influence on his work. Shortly after, Adler exhibited at the ‘German Art Dusseldorf’ show where he received a Gold Medal.

Adler travelled extensively, visiting Spain, Poland, Italy, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Romania and the Soviet Union. However, the artist’s freedom was to come to an end following the rise of Hitler in 1933. Adler had been involved with publishing literature that was pro-communist and against the policies of the National Socialists. Adler fled to Paris to avoid immanent persecution. It was here that he met Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), another artist who was to have a strong and everlasting impact on his work. Adler also spent time at Stanley Hayter’s (1901-1988) Atelier 17, experimenting with various printing techniques.

In 1935 he held a retrospective in Warsaw, after which he briefly returned to Poland. He enlisted with the Polish Army in 1940 and was eventually evacuated to Britain. He lived and exhibited in Glasgow during the War years and it was here that he first met the ‘Two Roberts’, MacBryde (1913-1966) and Colquhoun (1914-1962). In 1943 he joined the duo and the artist John Minton (1917-1957) in Bedford Gardens, London where he rented a studio. Adler became an important figure on the London art scene and a link between Britain and the continental avant-garde. Other artists associated with his group included Michael Ayrton (1921-1975), Prunella Clough (1919-1999) and Keith Vaughan (1912-1977). In London, Adler was represented by Gimpel Fils, Lefevre, Redfern Gallery and the Knoedler Gallery in New York.

He died near Aldbourne at the age of 53; sadly none of his brothers or sisters survived the holocaust. The British Arts Council gave him a memorial show in 1953.

His works can be found at museums in: Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland; London, Tate Gallery; Berlin, Jewish Museum; New York, Museum of Modern Art and New Zealand, Auckland Art Gallery.