6
6

ART/IDENTITY/MIGRATION: PROPERTY FROM BEN URI GALLERY AND MUSEUM

David Bomberg
THE BROKEN AQUEDUCT, WADI KELT, NEAR JERICHO
JUMP TO LOT
6

ART/IDENTITY/MIGRATION: PROPERTY FROM BEN URI GALLERY AND MUSEUM

David Bomberg
THE BROKEN AQUEDUCT, WADI KELT, NEAR JERICHO
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Modern & Post-War British Art

|
London

David Bomberg
1890-1957
THE BROKEN AQUEDUCT, WADI KELT, NEAR JERICHO

Provenance

Leicester Galleries, London, where acquired by Sir Alexander K. Muir, February 1928
Acquired by Ben Uri Gallery and Museum in 1954

Exhibited

London, Leicester Galleries, Paintings of Palestine and Petra, February 1928, cat. no.33;
London, Ben Uri Art Gallery, Selections from the Permanent Collection, 1960, cat. no.70;
Bournemouth, Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, Paintings from the Ben Uri Art Gallery, 1970;
Reading, Reading Museum and Art Gallery, David Bomberg and Lilian Holt, 4th June - 17th July 1971;
Glasgow, Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum, Jewish Art Exhibition, 5th September - 7th October 1979, cat. no.20;
London, Ben Uri Art Gallery, Exhibition of Selected Works from the Permanent Collection of the Ben Uri Art Gallery, 16th September - 23rd October 1980, cat. no.45;
Jerusalem, The Israel Museum, David Bomberg in Palestine, 1923-27, Autumn 1983, cat. no.58;
London, Gillian Jason Gallery, David Bomberg: Centenary Exhibition: Works on Paper, 28th November - 11th January 1991, cat. no.88, with tour to Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, Plymouth;
London, Ben Uri Art Gallery, Bomberg’s Relevance, 14th August - 2nd September 2007;
London, Ben Uri Art Gallery, Homeless & Hidden 1, 29th January - 24th February 2009, cat. no.14; 
London, Osborne Samuel, Apocalypse: Unveiling a Lost Masterpiece by Marc Chagall plus 50 Selected Master Works from the Ben Uri Collection, 8th - 31st January 2010;
London, Christie's South Kensington, 100 for 100: Ben Uri, Past, Present, Future, 21st May - 9th June 2016;
Eastbourne, Towner Gallery, David Bomberg: A Sense of Place, 9th July - 11th September 2016;
Chichester, Pallant House Gallery, Bomberg, 21st October 2017 - 4th February 2018, with tour to The Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle and Ben Uri Gallery, London.

Literature

Walter Schwab and Julia Weiner (eds), Jewish Artists: The Ben Uri Collection – Paintings, Drawings, Prints and Sculpture, Ben Uri Art Gallery and Museum in association with Lund Humphries, London, 1987, p.28;
Sarah MacDougall and Rachel Dickson (eds), Bomberg, Ben Uri Gallery and Museum, London, 2017, p.121, illustrated p.120.

Catalogue Note

The impact of the landscape of Jerusalem in 1923 on Bomberg must have been immediate and immense. Growing up in the urban East End of London, living in relative poverty, and often referring to himself as the ‘poor boy from the Ghetto’, his natural environment was the city, with little prior experience or relationship with the countryside. Enlisting with the Royal Engineers in 1914, he exchanged the streets of London for the harrowing experiences of the trenches which left him, on his return, a disillusioned figure, having witnessed first-hand the widespread destruction caused by the machine age he had previously championed.

In Jerusalem, the experience of such a new environment with its extraordinary vistas nourished and revitalised both him and his art, allowing him to reinvent himself as an artist and his painting style was changed irrevocably. Bomberg himself asserted that until he travelled to Jerusalem, he had ‘never seen the sunlight before’. He was immediately captivated by the distinctive light, astonishing landscapes and architecture of the region, and this is evident in the new energy and vibrancy expressed in the topographical panoramas he painted en plein air over the four years that he spent in the Middle East, in Jericho and Petra as well as Jerusalem. This preoccupation with the natural environment of the outdoor world was to consume his work for the remainder of his career.

Bomberg’s friend and supporter, fellow artist Muirhead Bone, was of central importance in securing him this transformative visit. Following the 1917 Balfour Declaration, a number of artists were employed to produce visual propaganda in support of the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Though Bomberg was not a Zionist, Bone considered this could be an interesting opportunity for Bomberg, with his Jewish heritage, and recommended him. Initially turned down by the Zionist Organisation, Bone eventually secured Bomberg a commission from the Palestinian Foundation Fund, who subsidised reconstruction in Jerusalem, and it was the work in the quarries and construction sites that Bomberg was commissioned to portray. However, Bomberg found these reconstruction projects uninspiring in contrast to the profound effect of the unique topography and architecture of the ancient city. This passion was fortuitously shared by the British Military Governor of Jerusalem, Sir Ronald Storrs, who alongside other like-minded government officials paid Bomberg to produce several works including a project in Petra, thus extending his stay by several years. 

It was not until 1926 that Bomberg, freed from his obligation to the Palestinian Foundation Fund, visited the Wadi Kelt - a remote river-valley in the West Bank originating near Jerusalem and running into the Jordan River near Jericho. Here Bomberg stayed with his first wife Alice, painting en plein air, and focused with an increasing and impassioned energy on the gaunt landscape around the isolated Monastery of St George. No commission had precipitated this visit, allowing Bomberg a new freedom in his choice of subject, also detected in the increased gestural vitality of his painting style. This work depicts Bomberg’s most personal and impulsive response to the remains of the Herodian aqueducts built to channel water from the springs of Farah/Parat, Fawwar and Qilt. The rich colours reflect the intense light and blazing heat beaming down on the arid landscape in which the broken remains of these huge structures stand crisp and striking, remnants from a previous era when they were so vital to the area’s prosperity.

There is a sense of urgency to this work: the rapid vitality of the brushstrokes and fierce energy behind the gestural application of paint brings the arid landscape of the foreground alive with movement, anticipating the free and expressive style of his later work in Spain and Ronda and encapsulating ‘The Spirit in the Mass’, which Bomberg was later to impart the importance of to his pupils during his infamous evening classes at The Borough School of Art. 

Modern & Post-War British Art

|
London