Wounded (Portrait of a man in a cap)
Jankel Adler was born in 1895 in Tuszyn, near Łódź, Poland, into a large, orthodox Jewish family. He studied engraving in Belgrade in 1912, then art in Barmen (now Wuppertal) and Düsseldorf until 1914. He returned to Poland in 1918, becoming a founder-member of Young Yiddish (a Łódź-based avant-garde artistic group, centred on the modernist poet Moshe Broderzon). During the First World War he was conscripted into the Russian army, but returned to Germany in 1920 and visited Berlin, where he met Chagall, before returning to Barmen. In 1922 he moved to Düsseldorf, joined the Young Rhineland circle, became friendly with Otto Dix and helped found Die Kommune and the International Exhibition of revolutionary artists in Berlin. His Planetarium frescos in 1925 were highly successful and he exhibited widely. In 1931, at the Düsseldorf Academy, he formed an important friendship with Paul Klee, who had a profound influence on his style.
In 1933, at the height of his success, Adler fled Nazi Germany for Paris after his work was declared ‘degenerate’ (he was later included in the infamous Entartete Kunst exhibition in 1937). He travelled widely from 1933–40. He returned to Paris in 1937, working with the printmaker Stanley William Hayter at Atelier 17, and meeting Picasso, who became the second major influence on his style. He joined the Polish Army upon the outbreak of the Second World War and was evacuated to Scotland in 1940, where he was demobilized owing to poor health. In Glasgow, together with Josef Herman, he became a member of the Glasgow New Art club founded by J D Fergusson. He moved to London in 1943, sharing a house with ‘the two Roberts’, the painters Colquhoun and MacBryde. He died at Aldbourne in Wiltshire in 1949.
Adler’s arrival in Paris in 1933 can be seen as part of a ‘second wave’ of artists from Russia who were drawn west to Germany, then to France. His etching, Ein Jude, brings a modernist technique to a traditional subject. In his later Portrait of a Woman, he employs a sombre palette and a bold, expressive style showing the influence of Picasso.