1890 - 1957

Oil on board, signed and dated 19’20’ upper left
Image size: 6 3/4 x 20 inches (17 x 51 cm)
Contemporary hand made frame


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This is a bold image of four sailors pulling together on a rope whose end falls down into the depths of the ocean. At the end of this could be an anchor or a fishing net. Behind them we get a glimpse of the water that they sail on and a second boat, similar to the one in the foreground. The forms in this work have been reduced to their simplest shapes, each man’s body being constructed from just the three basic shape of their head, body and legs.

This angular artistic choice, combined with the used of bold block colour, it is made clear that the artist has been somewhat influence by Vorticism (England’s answer to the Italian Futurism). Certainly, with the elongated landscape composition and the prominence of the working men, this painting effectively conveys the idea of dynamism, energy and movement.

The Artist

David Garshen Bomberg (5 December 1890 – 19 August 1957) was a British painter, and one of the Whitechapel Boys.

Bomberg was one of the most audacious of the exceptional generation of artists who studied at the Slade School of Art under Henry Tonks, and which included Mark Gertler, Stanley Spencer, C.R.W. Nevinson, and Dora Carrington.

Bomberg painted a series of complex geometric compositions combining the influences of cubism and futurism in the years immediately preceding World War I; typically using a limited number of striking colours, turning humans into simple, angular shapes, and sometimes overlaying the whole painting a strong grid-work colouring scheme. He was expelled from the Slade School of Art in 1913, with agreement between the senior teachers Tonks, Frederick Brown and Philip Wilson Steer, because of the audacity of his breach from the conventional approach of that time.

Whether because his faith in the machine age had been shattered by his experiences as a private soldier in the trenches or because of the pervasive retrogressive attitude towards modernism in Britain Bomberg moved to a more figurative style in the 1920s and his work became increasingly dominated by portraits and landscapes drawn from nature. Gradually developing a more expressionist technique, he travelled widely through the Middle East and Europe.

From 1945 to 1953, he worked as a teacher at Borough Polytechnic (now London South Bank University) in London, where his pupils included Frank Auerbach, Leon Kossoff, Philip Holmes, Cliff Holden, Edna Mann, Dorothy Mead, Gustav Metzger, Dennis Creffield, Cecil Bailey, and Miles Richmond. David Bomberg House, one of the student halls of residences at London South Bank University, is named in his honour. He was married to landscape painter Lilian Holt.