The Jewish Polish artist Jankel Adler (born 1895) fled from the south of France to Britain in 1943, where he settled first in Glasgow. His painting of the Mother and Child is said to reference Picasso’s Guernica and is poignant as he was uncertain of the fate of his partner and daughter until after the war.
The painting was first exhibited at an exhibition of Jewish art in the Gorbals in 1942.
On loan to the Ben Uri Gallery, it is one of several works of art by Jewish artists in the Ben Uri collection, artists who were displaced from their homeland by political circumstances before and during the Second World War, on show at the 12 Star Gallery, cultural home of the EU in London and, for a short period, acting as a central London outpost for the Ben Uri collection based in North London, as the Camden Arts Centre is doing in Cork Street with Wong Ping. Is this a new trend – if so, it is to be welcomed?
Another artist of note is Elisabeth Tomalin, who had a successful career in the UK, eventually becoming head of textiles in M&S and whose grandson is the architect Thomas Heatherwick.
Many artists spent some time in internment on arriving in the UK, but continued to paint. Hugo Dachinger’s portrait of the engineer Wilhem Hollitscher was created using paint made from foodstuffs on a canvas of an old Times newspaper primed with flour, through which you can still see news reports of the war.
“ART-EXIT: 1939 – A Very Different Europe” is a fascinating exhibition both in terms of the art and the personal stories of the artists whose work is on display.