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Ben Uri At 100
July/August 2015

The art of an aftermath: “Day Of Atonement”, 1919, by Jacob Kramer, ©Estate of John David Roberts, by permission of the William Roberts Society

The Ben Uri Gallery centenary exhibition at Somerset House reveals an extraordinary art collection, but it also tells us a great deal about modern Jewish art and the role of immigrants and refugees in 20th-century British art.


“Refugees”, c.1941, by Josef Herman, ©Estate of Josef Herman

The exhibition, Out of Chaos, is dominated by two waves of outsiders. First, there are the Anglo-Jewish artists who were born around 1890 and emerged just before the First World War. The Whitechapel Boys — including Mark Gertler, David Bomberg, Jacob Kramer and Isaac Rosenberg — were all sons of Jewish immigrants from the Russian Pale. They were drawn to traditional Jewish subjects: for example, Gertler’s Rabbi and Rabbitzin (1914), Kramer’s Day of Atonement (1919) and Bomberg’s Ghetto Theatre (1920).
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