Details & Cataloguing

20th Century Art – A Different Perspective


Jankel Adler
1895 - 1949
indistinctly signed Adler lower right
oil on canvas
111 by 85cm., 43¾ by 33½in.
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Peter Watson collection, London (by 1948)
Private collection, Israel; thence by descent to the present owner


London, Redfern Gallery, Jankel Adler, 1943, no. 16
London, 1959, no. 5
Jerusalem, Israel Museum, Jankel Adler: on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the artist's death - from collections in Israel, 1969, no. 33
Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle, Jankel Adler, 1895-1949, no. 96, illustrated in the catalogue


Stanley William Hayter, Jankel Adler, London, 1948, no. 32, catalogued and illustrated
Anna Klapheck, Jankel Adler, Recklinghausen, 1966, p. 23, no. 65, catalogued; p. 65, illustrated
Amishai-Maisels, in Artibus et historiae: rivista internazionale di arti visive e cinema, 1988, p. 62- 63, fig. 11, catalogued and illustrated
Annemarie Heibel, Jankel Adler (1895-1949), doctoral thesis, vol. 2, Munster, 2016, p. 322, no. WV 236, catalogued & illustrated

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1943 during the Second World War, Beginning of the Revolt is an essentially tragic and anarchic view of the human condition that closely relates to No Man's Land of the same year in the collection of the Tate Gallery, London. Underpinning Adler’s work is an intensely organized structure and carefully composed response to the turmoil of his time. Here, a raven, symbol of death and sadness, has come to roost among the amputated, mutilated branches of a rootless, dead tree. Where there was previously life there is now desolation. The muted palette heightens the ghostly bleakness of the scene, conveying a sense of silent despair.  The title of the painting, however, suggest resilience and revolt– despair and desolation will not lead to defeat. Death will lead to rebirth and new beginnings. Adler lost all his family in the holocaust, and the works he made during the 1940s were clearly a response to this loss and his own experiences as a refugee.

Adler was born near Lodz in Poland in 1895, the eighth of ten children, to devout Jewish parents. He moved to Germany in 1913 where he established himself as a significant force in the German art world of the 1920s, participating in every important Expressionist show. He befriended Otto Dix and Paul Klee, with whom he taught at the Düsseldorf Academy and shared a studio. Adler's successful German period was cut short in 1933 with the rise to power of the Nazi party. As a member of radical groups and a Jew, he was a prime target. He fled to France and later to Poland. His work was declared degenerate and removed from museum collections, and was included in the notorious 1937 Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition organised by the Nazi regime. He returned to France in 1937 and lived there until he joined the free Polish Army in 1940, and retreated with its forces to Scotland. Having spent the first part of the Second World War in Glasgow, in 1942 Adler moved to London, where he once again was in the centre of a lively artistic scene, part of an influx of artists who had fled the continent and who had a strong influence on young British artists.

20th Century Art – A Different Perspective