Jankel Adler, Portrait of a Man, 1923
Jankel Adler (1895-1949) was born as the seventh of ten children near Lodz, Poland. He grew up among hassic Jews surrounding the textile city of Lodz, influenced greatly by its Polish, German and Jewish population. Adler started an apprenticeship as an engraver with his uncle in Belgrade in 1912, after which he traveled through the Balkan countries. During World War I, as a "suspicious foreigner" Adler commenced his studies with Professor Gustav Wiethüchter at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Barmen, Germany.
Jankel Adler, Seated Woman, 1928
After his studies he spent time in Poland, Berlin and Paris. In 1922, Jankel Adler moved to Düsseldorf. There he became a teacher at the Academy of Arts, and became acquainted with Paul Klee, who influenced his work. Both artists belonged to the artists group "Junges Rheinland". He also befriended the painter Anton Räderscheidt, a leading figure of the New Objectivity.
Anom., Jankel Adler (standing) with Anton Räderscheidt, 1920s
A painting by Adler received a gold medal at the exhibition “German Art Düsseldorf” in 1928. In 1931 Adler moved into a studio at the Düsseldorf academy, which he abandoned in 1933 when leaving Germany upon friends' advice, after he had published together with other left-wing artists and intellectuals an "urgent appeal" against the Nazi policy and for communism during the campaigns for the parliamentary "elections" in February 1933.
Jankel Adler, The Mutilated, 1942. The Mutilated was painted in London during heavy bombing and reflected, he said, his admiration for "the behaviour of Londoners under great stress and suffering, only then could humanity be seen at its best".
In that year, two of his pictures were displayed by the Nazis at the Mannheimer Arts Center as examples of degenerate art. Paintings of him and Marc Chagall were pulled on a hand-cart through the streets and publicly jeered at (see my article Chagall and Germany). Adler now left Germany, staying in Paris, where he regarded his exile consciously as political resistance against the fascist regime in Germany. In the years that followed, he made numerous journeys to Poland, Italy, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Romania and the Soviet Union. In 1937, twenty-five of his works were seized from public collections by the Nazis and four were shown in the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibition in Munich.
Jankel Adler, Two Figures, 1944
When World War II broke out in 1939, Jankel Adler volunteered for the Polish army. Two years later, however, he was dismissed due to his bad health. Jankel Adler moved to Scotland and shortly after to London. During the 1940s a number of respectable exhibitions of Adler's works took place in London, Paris and New York. In 1949 Jankel Adler died in Albourne near London with the bitter knowledge that none of his nine brothers and sisters had survived the Holocaust.