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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Jankel Adler

Detail (below, right) of the cat from Herr Cleron, der Katzenzüchte
(Mr. Cleron, the cat breeder), 1925, Jankel Adler
Herr Cleron, der
Katzenzüchte, 1925,
Jankel Adler
One of the things that has always amazed me during the many years I've taught art and taught about art (in one manner or another), is the narrow focus students have in thinking that all art is localized, or at best, only national in scope. I find myself very often having to remind students that nothing could be further from the case. That's true now especially with the Internet and the nearly instantaneous communications such technical wonders entail. I can paint a picture today and have it seen around the world tomorrow. Although art didn't travel so easily a hundred years ago, that's not to say that most art trends didn't have an international following in some form. Take Picasso's Cubism, for example. He and Georges Braque worked in a modest, out-of-the-way studio on the left bank of the Seine during Cubism's formative years starting about 1908, and separately well into the 1920s. From there, Cubism spread rapidly around the globe. In doing so, it evolved to some extent. In essence, Cubism was the starting point of an evolutionary process that produced diversity. Picasso and Braque planted the seeds of this diversity, which led to any number of art movements which today we've lumped together under the broad heading, Modern Art.
Composition N°56, 1948, Jankel Adler. A maturation of Adler's Cubism.
Cubism was born into the larger realm of Expressionism, which nurtured it, and in turn, was later nurtured by it. A retrospective of Paul Cézanne's paintings had been held at the Salon d'Automne of 1904. His then-current works were displayed there in 1905 and 1906. Then followed two commemorative retrospectives after his death in 1907. These expositions were the seeds of Cubism in the fertile mind of Pablo Picasso. Following Cezanne's lead, objects were analyzed, broken up, and reassembled in an abstract manner, giving Cubist art its form. Composition N°56 (above) is a primer on Cubism. Instead of depicting objects from one viewpoint, the artist depicts the subject from multiple viewpoints allowing a greater visual context. During the first years of the 20th-century, Germany had been a hotbed of Expressionism. It was only natural, therefore, that it was there that the seeds of Cubism first took root. And one of its foremost gardeners was the Polish painter, Jankel Adler.

Portraits of and by Adler
Jankel Adler was not only Polish but also Jewish, the seventh of ten children born into a hassic Jewish family in 1895. He was born in Tuszyn, a suburb of Łódź (central Poland). Adler began his art studies as an apprentice engraver, studying with his uncle in Belgrade. In 1914 the family moved to Barman (far-western) Germany. There he studied at the College of Arts and Crafts. Being too young, Polish, and a student, he was exempt from conscription into the German army during the First World War. After the war, he went back to Łódź, where he was joint founder of "Jung Jidysz", a group of avant-garde artists. In 1922 Adler moved to Düsseldorf. There he became a teacher at the Academy of Arts, where he became acquainted with the Swiss painter, Paul Klee, an early influence. His portrait of Herr Cleron, der Katzenzüchte (Mr. Cleron, the cat breeder TOP), is from this period. Adler's first public recognition came when he received a gold medal at the 1928 exhibition, "German art Düsseldorf."

Mutilated, 1942-43. Jankel Adler. The figure on the left
represents Stalin, the one on the right, Hitler.
Woman Thinking, 1940's,
Jankel Adler
Around 1930 Adler took working vacations to Mallorca and various places in Spain. During the German election campaign of 1932, Adler, along with a group of leftist artists and intellectuals, published a pamphlet against the National Socialists (Hitler's Nazis) and for communism. As a modern artist, and primarily as a Jew, he faced persecution when Hitler's took power in 1933. In that year, two of his paintings were displayed by the Nazis at the Mannheimer Arts Center as examples of "degenerate" art. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Adler had the good sense to leave Germany, moving to Paris. There he regarded move as an exile for his political resistance against the fascist regime in Germany. In the years that followed, Adler traveled to Poland, Italy, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Romania and the Soviet Union. Then, In 1937, twenty-five of his works were seized from public collections by the Nazis. Four were shown in the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition in Munich.

Girl at a Table, 1947, Jankel Adler
With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Jankel Adler volunteered for the Polish army, which had been reorganized in France. Then, just before the fall of Paris in 1941 Adler was discharged for health reasons. He moved to Kirkcudbright, Scotland, where he lived until his death in 1949 at the age of fifty three. Adler died relatively young, but not as young as his siblings. None of Adler's nine brothers and sisters survived the Holocaust.
Untitled, Jankel Adler


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