MARK GERTLER (1891 - 1939)

Mark Gertler was born in Spitalfields, London, the son of Polish Jewish immigrants. His family, in desperate poverty, went first to Austria and then journeyed to America, before finally returning to London in 1896. Gertler began his studies at the Regent Street Polytechnic in 1906. However, the following year, at his father’s insistence, he became an apprentice at Clayton & Bellat, a stained glass works for the period of one year. In 1908, he entered the Slade School with the support of the Jewish Education Aid Society on advice of Sir William Rothenstein, who recognized his talent. Here he met fellow students David Bomberg,  Dora Carrington, Paul Nash, Christopher R.W. Nevinson and Stanley Spencer. The same year he won the Bronze Medal in the Board of Education's National Competition for Still Life With Melon: (available on our website), and in 1909 he won a two year Slade Scholarship. In 1910, he won the Slade prize for portrait painting and the second prize for painting from a plaster cast. In 1912 Gertler left the Slade, having already been celebrated as one of the brightest talents of his generation and became friends with Edward Marsh, an important patron of the arts. In 1910    Gertler developed friendships with fellow students Nevinson, Spencer, Roberts, Wadsworth, Nash, Currie, and Dora Carrington, with whom he fell in love.

As his family became better established, they moved to a house on Spital Square. He acquired his first studio on the top floor of a building on Commercial Street and in 1912 and was elected to the New English Art Club, also wining a British Institute Scholarship. 1914 saw the outbreak of war. Gertler and friends were pacifists. In 1915 he moved to Hampstead and rented a studio in Rudall Crescent. He was elected to the London Group, the New English Art Club having rejected his work. He began to spend more time at Garsington as a guest of Lady Ottoline Morrell and became friendly with Lytton Strachey and Roger Fry.    In 1916, Gertler painted his masterpiece, The Merry Go Round. The painting shows the figures of a group of soldiers and civilians caught in the vicious circle of a carousel, and is considered by many art critics as the most important British painting of the First World War. His name appeared in Who's Who for the first time. Gilbert Cannan's book Mendelbased on Gertler's life, was published. He suffered periods of depression which began to recur frequently. In 1917 Gertler was invited to join the Omega Workshop. This was also the year in which his father died. 1918 the artist received call-up papers but did not join the army and in 1919 it was discovered that he was suffering from tuberculosis, He entered a sanatorium for treatment. 1920 was his first visit to Paris, though he was required to go back into the sanatorium from November until the following May. 1921-26    solo shows were held each year at Goupil Gallery, London. In 1925 he suffered a relapse and went to the sanatorium once more. He later took a trip to St. Tropez, France. In the years 1928/30/32/33/34 solo exhibitions of new paintings were held at the Leicester Galleries, London. In 1929 he visited Paris and stayed in a sanatorium where doctors said he was cured. In 1930 Gertler married Marjorie Hodgkinson in Paris and they began to spend part of each year in Spain and Southern France. In 1932 Gertler taught at the Westminster Institute. His mother died and his son Luke was born during that year. The 1934 solo exhibition at the Leicester Galleries was, for the first time, a failure. He and Marjory spent the summer in Spain.        In 1935    he exhibited drawings at Agnew in London. 1936 he entered the sanatorium once more. In 1937/39    Solo exhibitions were held at the Lefevre Gallery, London. 1938 he stayed in Paris with Marjory and Luke. In 1939    Gertler committed suicide. He died on     23 June. Marjory was in Paris, Luke in Switzerland.


Selected Exhibitions

1941, Memorial exhibition, Leicester Galleries, London. 

1944 Memorial exhibition, Ben Uri Gallery, London.

1949 Memorial exhibition, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London.

1971 an exhibition from Morley College toured to The Minories, Colchester; The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; and the Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield.

1982 Mark Gertler - the early and late years, Ben Uri Art Gallery, London.

Selected Bibliography 

Lefèvre Gallery exhibition Catalogue, introduction by Aldous Huxley,1939;     Redfern Gallery exhibition Catalogue;     Leicester Galleries exhibition Catalogue, introduction by S. Lynd, 1949;     Whitechapel Gallery exhibition Catalogue, introduction by R. Balston 1956;    Modern English Painters, essay by Sir John Rothenstein, 1965;    Mark Gertler, Selected Letters, edited by Noel Carrington, introduction by Quentin Bell, Rupert Hart-Davies1972;     John Woodeson, Mark Gertler; Biography of a Painter, Sidgwick and Jackson Ltd, London 1975;  Richard Shone, The Friday Club, 1905-22, The Burlington Magazine.1982;  Frances Spalding, Gertler's Early Years, Ben Uri Art Gallery exhibition catalogue 2002; Sarah MacDougall, Mark Gertler, John Murray, 200