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Mark Gertler at the Otter Gallery, University of Chichester

Until 7 October, The Pool at Garsington, a 1918 painting by Mark Gertler is part of Conflicting Views: Pacifist Artists, an exhibition at the Otter Gallery, University of Chichester, of work by artists who were Conscientious Objectors during both World Wars.

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Composed of Cubist-inspired geometric angles and simplified forms, the trees and garden pool in Mark Gertler’s painting depicts Garsington Manor, the Oxfordshire home of Lady Ottoline Morrell (1873¬–1938). A leading patron of literary and artistic circles in London in the early 1900s, Morrell championed the work of avant-garde artists including Gertler, Jacob Epstein and Stanley Spencer. While she hosted a regular art salon at her home in Bedford Square, Bloomsbury, she also frequently invited artists and writers to stay and work at Garsington.

Gertler stayed at Garsington regularly from 1917 to 1927. There he met the art critic, Roger Fry, who in 1918 invited him to work for the Omega Workshops, an association of artists and designers including Vanessa Bell. Gertler was already an acquaintance of the Bloomsbury Group, many of whom he had first met in 1915. Like Bell and Fry, Gertler shared an innate admiration for the colour and composition of French Post-Impressionism, the movement that Fry had almost single-handedly championed in England by organising the First and Second Post-Impressionist Exhibitions in London in 1910 and 1912. In 1916, Gertler painted one of his most well known works, Merry-Go-Round (Tate), a scathing comment on the horror of the First World War.

Born in Spitalfields, East London, Mark Gertler was the son of Polish Jewish immigrants. As a child, his interest in art was ignited by the advertising posters and pavement still lifes he saw on the streets of London. His parents encouraged him to attend classes at the Regent Street Polytechnic, where in 1908, he won third prize in a national art competition. His artistic aptitude emboldened him to successfully apply for a scholarship from the Jewish Education Aid Society that funded his scholarship at the Slade School of Art where he studied from 1908–12. One of the artists that Gertler became close to was Dora Carrington, with whom he had a brief, but intense, tempestuous affair.

After contracting tuberculosis in 1920, Gertler suffered from ill health for the rest of his life. Up to the 1930s, he worked part time as an art teacher and continued to exhibit in London, supported by several aristocratic patrons. He married Marjorie Greatorex Harrison with whom he had a son in 1932. However, having suffered from depression for many years, and beset with financial problems, Gertler committed suicide in his Highgate studio in 1939. He was buried at the Willesden Jewish Cemetery. Today, his work is widely represented in major collections including Tate and the Ben Uri Gallery Museum in London; and the National Galleries of Scotland.

Further Information

Conflicting Views: Pacifist Artists
Otter Gallery
University of Chichester,
College Lane,
Chichester,
West Sussex,
PO19 6PE

Telephone: (+44) 01243 816000
Email: help@chi.ac.uk

 

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