How you can use this image
This image is available to be shared and re-used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence (CC BY-NC-ND).
You can reproduce this image for non-commercial purposes and you are not able to change or modify it in any way.
Wherever you reproduce the image you must attribute the original creators (acknowledge the original artist(s) and the person/organisation that took the photograph of the work) and any other rights holders.
Review our guidance pages which explain how you can reuse images, how to credit an image and how to find more images in the public domain or with a Creative Commons licence available.Download
Add or edit a note on this artwork that only you can see. You can find notes again by going to the ‘Notes’ section of your account.
Three years out of the Slade, Gertler’s work became increasingly experimental. This drawing, executed on the eve of the First World War, captures the tension between the traditional way of life depicted and the incipient warfare which threatens to overwhelm it. The concentrated, almost claustrophobic domestic interior with the scrubbed kitchen table and simple meal typify Jewish East End life of the period. The simplification of the figures and the still life objects seen from different viewpoints reflect Gertler’s awareness of Cézanne, while the treatment of the dresser and crockery shows the influence of Cubism. The presence of a grid (common Slade practice for squaring up the picture for transfer to canvas) indicates that Gertler planned a painting of the composition.
The focus of the work is the relationship between the man and wife – without the title, we would not know they are Rabbi and Rebbetzin – yoked together and anchored to their spartan surroundings. Their huge eyes increase their emotive appeal, while their enlarged hands, as in Gertler’s 'Portrait of the Artist’s Mother' (1913, Glynn Vivian, Swansea), indicate suffering and a life that has known hardship. The picture, as a contemporary reviewer noted, also evokes the wider history of the Jewish diaspora: ‘A man and a woman with all the history of an oppressed people behind them […] the incisive and unflinching design […] controlled without loss to their humanity’.
Rabbi and Rabbitzin
watercolour & pencil on paper
H 48.8 x W 37.6 cm
acquired by private treaty through Sotheby's with the assistance of the Art Fund, The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Victoria and Albert Museum Purchase Grant Fund, Pauline and Daniel Auerbach, Sir Michael and Lady Heller, Agnes and Edward Lee, Hannah and David Lewis, David Stern, Laura and Barry Townsley, Della and Fred Worms and anonymous donors, 2002
Mark Gertler 1914