Today in Yiddishkayt… July 26
Birthday of Jankel Adler, Painter
Jankel Adler was born on July 26, 1895 in Tuszyn, a suburb of Łódź. In 1912 he began training as an engraver with his uncle in Belgrade, and in 1913 moved to Barmen (now Wuppertal), Germany. Throughout World War I, Adler studied at the college of arts and crafts under Gustav Wiethüchter. From 1918-1919 he went back to Łódź, where he was one of the founders of “Jung Yiddish”, an association of painters and writers in Lódz dedicated to the expression of their Jewish identity. During this period, Adler produced Expressionist style paintings featuring an elongated human figure with distorted proportions. Adler also painted motifs from Jewish folk art and Hebrew calligraphy.
In 1920 he returned to Germany, first settling in Berlin, then Barmen, and then Düsseldorf by 1922. There he became a teacher at the Academy of Arts, and became acquainted with Paul Klee, who greatly influenced his work. Throughout the 1920s, Adler became active in left-wing avant-garde groups. His intense engagement with wall painting during this period influenced his painting technique, which involved scratching patterns into a mixture of oil paint and sand. Adler was also strongly influenced by Picasso and Léger. In 1928, one of Adler’s paintings received a gold medal at the exhibition “German art Düsseldorf”. In 1929 and 1930 Adler went on study trips to Mallorca and other parts of Spain. In 1933, two of his pictures were displayed by the Nazis at the Mannheimer Arts Center as examples of degenerate art. This prompted Adler to leave Germany for Paris, where he regarded his exile consciously as a form of political resistance against the fascist regime in Germany. His departure from Germany was followed by an active political campaign, together with fellow artists and intellectuals during the elections for the Reichstag in 1933, “urgently propagating” Communism and against National Socialism. 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.
With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, he volunteered for the Polish army that had been reconstituted in France. He was discharged in 1941 for health reasons and moved to Glasgow, Scotland. In 1943 he moved to London. During the 1940s he was honored with significant exhibitions in London, Paris and New York. Adler died in Whitley Cottage near Aldbourne on April 25, 1949 at the age of 53.
Here is a slideshow of some of Adler’s paintings: