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Lot 48: DAVID BOMBERG 1890-1957
Modern British Art
June 2, 2004
London, United Kingdom
signed and dated 25
oil on canvas
Bomberg's stay in Palestine lasted from 1923-1927 and was initially the result of a commission, prompted by Sir Muirhead Bone, from the Zionist Organisation to record their work in the area. However, with the assistance and encouragement of patrons such as Sir Edward Marsh, Bomberg met Sir Ronald Storrs, Military Governor of Jerusalem, who not only bought several paintings from the artist, but encouraged others to do likewise. Storrs was passionate about the preservation of the city and supported a number of restoration projects of historic sites in and around Jerusalem. The patronage of Storrs and his circle was in part responsible for the variation of handling and range of topographical elements seen in Bomberg's paintings of the city. Works range from large-scale detailed panoramas to freely painted oil sketches and drawings which reduce the city to essential forms, a style which was to inform Bomberg's later paintings of Toledo and Ronda.
In contrast to his abstract work of the mid to late1910s, the Jerusalem paintings can at first appear a remarkable volte-face by an artist who was at the forefront of the avant-garde. However, it seems that Bomberg himself felt that these paintings were an extension and widening of the prime interest of the earlier paintings, that of pictorial structure. As with many of his avant-garde contemporaries, the example of the First World War had caused a re-evaluation, and by moving back towards a more representational manner, he allowed himself to rebuild his working methodology.
The present painting relates closely to the slightly larger work of the same title, formerly in the collection of Sir Harry Luke K.C.M.G., the Assistant Governor of Jerusalem during Bomberg's time in the city. However, here the time of day is clearly different, with the bright sunlight ironing out the changes and breaks between buildings and forming almost abstract patterns. As a result individual buildings beyond the main landmarks lose their particular characteristics and these paintings were recognised by contemporary writers as capturing a convincing sense of place without resorting to the sentimental or archeological elements so often found in pure topographical painting.
A pencil study, erroneously catalogued as a study for the Luke painting noted above but clearly directly associated with the present work, is illustrated in Richard Cork et al., David Bomberg: A Tribute to Lillian Bomberg, Fischer Fine Art, London 1985, cat.no.52.
Bomberg gave this painting and the following lot to his friend in Jerusalem, the architect and town planner Clifford Holliday, in exchange for a loan. Holliday's wife, Eunice recorded in her memoirs their various meetings with the Bombergs and the difficulty that the artist and Lilian had in finding suitable accomodation in the city. With the help of Ronald Storrs, they eventually found a 'superb flat on the top of a 3-storey building just opposite the citadel entrance, above Hezekiah's Pool inside the Jaffa Gate... with the most marvellous views all over the Old City. Most of his Jerusalem pictures were painted here...' (unpublished memoirs). In one of Eunice Holliday's letters home (op.cit., p.62), she recorded an impromptu picnic that her family had shared with the Bombergs in the spring of 1926. '... We discovered Bomberg painting, and Mrs Bomberg holding the brushes, so to speak. We prepared lunch under a big cliff. Luckily we had taken plenty of provisions, for Mrs Bomberg was absolutely out of stock. They had nothing but a tin of bully beef, one of baked beans and some funny little scones Mrs B. had baked on her primus... We had a great feed, and then walked to the pool, where Ben Dor and Hamat had a swim; Mrs B., Paul and I paddled while Cliff and Bomberg talked art. It was a glorious day.' (ibid.)
PROPERTY OF A GENTLEMAN
Acquired directly from the Artist by Clifford Holliday and thence by direct family descent
Dimensions: 32 by 24cm., 12 1/2 by 9 1/2 in.
Literature: Eunice Holliday, Letters from Jerusalem (1922-1935) during the Palestine Mandate, I.B. Tauris & Co., London, 1997, illustrated on the front cover and p.63.