Emerging from the East End of London in the explosive decade before World War I, David Bomberg stood out among many other brilliant young students at the Slade School of Art. Among his peers was Isaac Rosenberg, the painter-turned-poet who died in the trenches just at the time when his verses showed extraordinary promise. Bomberg narrowly escaped death himself. As it was, the war changed him utterly. He entered combat a dedicated abstractionist, influenced by Wyndham Lewis and T.E. Hulme, not to mention Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and Fernand Leger. The horrors of the war, particularly the havoc wrought by modern killing machines, devastated Bomberg’s faith in the love of technology underlying modern abstract art.
To recover his self-confidence, Bomberg, after the war, went to Palestine under the auspices of the Zionist movement. He went to record the life of the Jewish pioneers but discovered instead the power of the sun. Like Paul Cezanne and Vincent Van Gogh before him, Bomberg had gone South to experience a visionary landscape. The pursuit of its beauty led him later to Spain and back to England. His accomplishments as a landscape painter place him in the Turner tradition.
Though critics now hail him as one of the greatest twentieth century landscape artists, the tragedy of David Bomberg’s life is the neglect and near contempt he suffered in his later years, often at the hands of critics and dealers who knew of his reputation with Lewis, Hulme, and Ezra Pound in the 1920’s. With the present volume, Richard Cork, aided by Bomberg’s devoted widow, Lillian, has done much to correct this injustice.