Jerwood Foundation

David Bomberg (1890-1957)

Portrait of Eunice Levy, 1953

  • Details

    © The Estate of David Bomberg. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2013

    signed (Bomberg) upper right

  • Medium

    oil on canvas

  • Dimensions

    30 x 23 in. (76.2 x 58.5 cm.)

  • Provenance

    Lilian Bomberg.
    with Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London.
    Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, London, 4 March 1987, lot 177 (as ‘Eunice’, 1933).
    Anonymous sale; Christie’s, London, 9 June 1989, lot 326 (as ‘Portrait of Eunice Levi’, 1933).
    Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, London, 22 November 1995, lot 61.
    Anonymous sale; Phillips, London, 5 March 1996, lot 45 (as ‘Portrait of Eunice Levi’, circa 1933).
    Anonymous sale; Christie’s, London, 8 June 2001, lot 81, where purchased.

  • Exhibited

    London, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, David Bomberg, A Great British Artist February - March 1988, not numbered, illustrated (as ‘Portrait of Eunice’, 1933).

  • Literature

    Exhibition catalogue, David Bomberg: A Great British Artist, London, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, 1998, illustrated.
    Collection Catalogue, Jerwood Collection, London 2012 p.30.

  • On Display

    Room 4, Jerwood Gallery, Hastings

This portrait depicts Bomberg’s neighbour, Eunice Levi, and was painted at the artist’s home on Rosslyn Hill, Hampstead. Bomberg had moved to this address with his second wife, the artist Lilian Holt, in 1948. In this portrait Eunice Levi sits in a white robe in front of what could be an abstracted view from a window. Bomberg’s thick painterly style can be seen vividly within this painting, through the built up layers of wonderfully vibrant and colourful brushstrokes.

The portrait was painted a year after Bomberg’s recovery from a long bout of depression, which was brought on by the repeated rejections of his requests for commissions and failure to sell work. He was bitterly disappointed when Tate rejected the purchase of his works in 1937 and these continuing fits of depression prevented Bomberg from painting. In an attempt to inspire her husband to start painting again, Lilian began placing a vase of flowers on a table in their living room and encouraged him to paint them. Initially reluctant, Bomberg soon began buying flowers every day to paint. This portrait can therefore be viewed as one of many paintings accomplished with a fresh eye, by a newly inspired Bomberg.

Born in Birmingham, Bomberg moved with his family to the East End of London in 1895. He studied with Walter Bayes at the City and Guilds Institute (circa 1905) and then took classes at both the Central School of Arts and Crafts and Westminster School under Walter Sickert (1908-1910). The son of Polish-Jewish immigrants, he was able to continue his studies at the Slade School (1911-1913) with the aid of a Jewish Educational Society subsidy. Bomberg was one of an exceptional generation of students at the Slade, which included Stanley Spencer, Mark Gertler, Dora Carrington and C.R.W. Nevinson. His first solo show was held at the Chenil Gallery in 1914. A year later he exhibited alongside the Vorticist Group, and was a founding member of the London Group, exhibiting regularly with them until his death.

In 1915, Bomberg enlisted in the Royal Engineers and after World War I he spent long periods of time abroad, living in both Palestine and Spain. During World War II he worked briefly as an Official War Artist, painting bomb stores. Bomberg taught at Borough Polytechnic (1945-53) where his pupils included Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff. Although Bomberg is now considered to be one of the greatest British artists of his generation, he died almost penniless, with many of his works remaining unsold or in storage. After his death, major exhibitions of Bomberg’s work were held at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (1979) and Tate Gallery, London (1988).