I tend to like a picture because it’s beautiful or how it makes me feel, but some of my favourites are my favourites because I am so familiar with them. Such as Dora Carrington’s ‘Lytton Stratchey’, which a copy of hung on my bedroom wall for about ten years and which is the first picture I visit when ever I go to the National Portrait Gallery, or Howard Hodgkin’s ‘After Degas’ because it reminds me of the Hayward exhibition my mum took me to in the nineties which made me think working in an art gallery would be great.
So my choice this week is Portrait of Mr Murray by Jankel Adler, for two reasons firstly it is a beautiful study, the lines on his eyes draw me in but secondly it reminds me of Kirkcudbright where I spent all my childhood holidays. Adler spent about six months in Kirkcudbright after he was invalided out of the army in 1941, like St Ives, Kirkcudbright was a popular place amongst artists including Jessie M King and E A Hornel who on being asked why Kirkcudbright attracted such talent said "Well, it's a fine old town and not too big, but big enough to keep you from vegetating." Kirkcudbright was certainly more than that, with unspoilt views, the sea only a moment away and the beautiful architecture, the small town was the perfect place for Adler to recuperate.
Portrait of Mr. Murray
ink on paper, 51 ´ 43.8 cm
Portrait drawing of Mr.Murray of Kirkudbright by Jankel Adler 1942
Adler was born in Poland and studied art in Düsseldorf before being conscripted into the Russian army in the 1914-18 war. He went to Germany after the war where he lectured at the Akademie der Kunst, Düsseldorf, until his work was declared ‘degenerate’ by the Nazis. He moved to France where he worked with S. W. Hayter (1901-1988) at the Atelier 17. When he enlisted in the Polish Free Army during the Second World War, he was sent to Scotland (where he drew this portrait) before settling in London. His images have been described as being ‘expressive of a melancholy acceptance of fate’, of which the sitter here is a striking example.
Kircudbright is in Dumfriesshire but the local library has no trace of Mr Murray.