Essays by James Hyman

Je suis Juif. A Personal Response to British Figurative Painting.

Je suis Juif. A Personal Response to British Figurative Painting.


Essay for the Ben Uri Centenary. Published in Out of Chaos. 100 Years in London, Ben Uri Gallery and Museum, 2015

Je Suis Juif: A Personal Response to British Figurative Painting since World War Two.
Dr. James Hyman

Dedicated to the memory of R.B. Kitaj

At lunchtime on 11 September 2001 art critics, collectors and friends assembled at a gallery in Mayfair in London for the launch of my first book, The Battle for Realism: Figurative Art in Britain during the Cold War (1945-60) [1]. It was an enormously exciting moment that marked the culmination of ten years of work, first for my Ph.D. at the Courtauld Institute of Art and then as an author for Yale University Press. In the book I traced the development of figurative art in Britain in the period after the Second World War and argued that the battle for realism was a key moment in the history of British art. This was the moment, in the late 1940s and 1950s, when a School of London was proposed for the first time as a challenge to the hegemony of the École de Paris and the New York School.[2] As with Paris and New York, the role call of immigrants is long - Jankel Adler, Frank Auerbach, Lucian Freud, Naum Gabo, Josef Herman, and many, many more - and appropriately this is one of the strengths of Ben Uri's permanent collection. This was also a moment when British art was elevated to a heightened status through the international reputations gained by artists such as Francis Bacon, Graham Sutherland, Lucian Freud and Henry Moore. While in New York Clement Greenberg's 'abstract expressionists' and Harold Rosenberg's 'action painters' were prioritising the painted surface and the properties of the paint to create a radical new abstraction, in London Bacon, Freud, Auerbach and Kossoff defiantly pushed figurative painting to its limits to create a radical modernist realism that gave a central place to the artist's own actions on the surface of the picture.

Their work was at the centre of a battle between two competing visions of realism: social or socialist realism, and modernist realism. Leading the two sides were two of the twentieth century's greatest art critics: David Sylvester, the insider par excellence, and John Berger, a combative outsider. Berger advocated a social realism that was an accessible art that would communicate with an audience, whilst Sylvester's existentialist realism addressed the human condition and presented the artist as a loner, a solitary genius revealing important truths.

That lunchtime in London, as we sipped wine, nibbled canapés and enjoyed the paintings around us by Auerbach, Freud, Kossoff, Henry Moore, William Scott and Graham Sutherland, the first news came through of planes crashing into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York. At that moment none of us appreciated the enormity of the event or the way that it would change the world so fundamentally.

In an essay for the Guardian newspaper entitled 'Fifty Years of Hurt', that I wrote later that day, I attempted to convey the continuing potency of this earlier battle for realism in the light of contemporary events.[3] I concluded:

"Today, when so much art has become entertainment, serving a public hungry for sensation, and when the notion of high culture is attacked so routinely, it may seem misplaced to recall the high seriousness of that battle. Yet [] the indebtedness of today's leading artists to these post-war pioneers seems clear []. As modern artists continue to grapple with humanity's vulnerability in a violent world, they are creating a new realism that places them as heirs to the legacy of this earlier battle. Fifty years ago it was the chimneys of Auschwitz and the atom bomb plume at Hiroshima that prescribed the artistic struggle. Now, in the aftermath of the terrorist atrocities in America, the battle for realism has assumed a chilling new resonance." [4]

An event of the magnitude of 9/11 can be embodied, encapsulated, evoked by a memorable line, a significant personal narrative, a defining image. The photograph of an aeroplane (fig 1) about to crash into the towers is etched into our collective memory and gives poignancy to the precarious twin towers of Anselm Kiefer's Jericho, (fig 2) which were memorably installed in the courtyard of the Royal Academy in 2007.

Herbert Mason's famous photograph of St Paul's Cathedral in the Blitz (1941,fig 3) has a similar potency. Both the 9/11 and Blitz photographs embody a defining moment and each encapsulates a shift in consciousness of such profundity that those who experienced the event first hand , or through an image in the media, would be changed forever.

Mason's iconic, widely reproduced photograph was declared to be 'war's most famous picture' and embodies resilience and an inviolate, unbroken spirit. Jeremy Paxman's characterisation of its resonance helps explain its potency and provides an insight into why three of the greatest paintings of St Paul's should be by Jews: 'The best-known picture of the Blitz, the picture that told the British people they would never be beaten this sense of being uniquely persecuted and uniquely guarded.' [5]

In Bomberg's Evening in the City of London (1944, fig. 4) the city is tinged with glorious pinks and oranges and St Paul's dome rises proudly above it. In Kossoff's breakthrough painting, St Paul's (1954, fig. 5), the cathedral ascends vertiginously heavenwards and in Auerbach's complex St Paul's Building Site (1955, fig. 6) the builders construct a New Jerusalem. Each artist's vision elevates one from the immediate to the transcendent.

* * * * *

In 1962 Michael Andrews produced what has become one of his most famous paintings, The Colony Room, (fig 7). This group portrait has assumed canonical status in its presentation of members of the so-called School of London in the infamous Soho drinking club that was frequented by Michael Andrews, Frank Auerbach, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud amongst many other distinguished cultural and political figures. The iconic status of this painting is matched by that of a celebrated group photograph taken by John Deakin, Wheelers Lunch (1963), that shows Andrews, Auerbach, Bacon and Freud sitting around a dining table at the celebrated restaurant, Wheelers. Again the image encapsulates the friendship of a circle of painters and celebrates ideas of bohemia.

If, however, one looks beyond these over-familiar pictures, there is another group portrait that tells a different story, one that celebrates a different context: R.B. Kitaj's painting The Wedding (1989-93, fig 8). Here we are given another construction, one that takes us from a drinking club and a seafood restaurant and places us instead inside a synagogue. Our familiarity with the earlier pictures of Andrews and Deakin make Kitaj's intervention all the more audacious.

When I first saw this painting, which is now in the collection of the Tate, on a visit to Kitaj's studio in Chelsea in 1992, I was shocked by it. [7] It seemed to be a provocative reclaiming of Jews who had spent their lives seeking to create a place for themselves in the mainstream.

In contrast to the verdant landscape of lush greens in Andrews' Colony Room, Kitaj's declamatory painting is a brash commemoration of the artist's marriage ceremony. The setting is the oldest Spanish and Portuguese synagogue in London, Bevis Marks. In the centre of the picture, under the chuppah, stand Kitaj and his bride, fellow painter Sandra Fisher. Surrounding them is a roll call of some of England's most famous painters: Lucian Freud, the grandson of Sigmund Freud and an immigrant from Berlin; Frank Auerbach, an orphaned Jewish refugee from Berlin; and Leon Kossoff, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants. Obscured, to one side, is Kitaj's best man, his close friend since student days in the early 1960s, David Hockney.

At first sight the painting is a joyful celebration of the worlds of painting and Judaism. However, it also includes signs of the complexity that remains a key to diaspora experience. Freud appears to turn his back on marriage and Judaism, whilst Kitaj's adopted daughter is dressed in a sari having chosen this as the moment to assert her own ethnicity.

Kitaj had begun work on this painting at a time when he was also exploring the ideas that he would publish in 1989 in what he called his First Diasporist Manifesto. [8] More personal credo than rallying cry, it was a touching attempt to address his own identity and sense of place as a Jew in the diaspora. As Kitaj explained in his manifesto:

"Diaspora is most often associated with Jews and their two-thousand-year-old scattering among the nations (longer by other accounts). Exile [...], has become a way of life and death - consonant with Jewishness itself [...]. I think that memories, events and beliefs are sacred dreams for paintings and so the mode of my life is translated into pictures []. After 1945, the world changed for the Jews. If your world changes, your paintings change. Your hand, charged by heart and mind, goes at its task in new ways [...]. After 1945 [...] Jewish painting has new things to face, events never faced before, a profoundly different world view, an art to remodel." [9]

In making such statements, Kitaj was both an insider and an outsider: a figure at the heart of the contemporary British art establishment, who nevertheless was an American and a Jew. This duality is evident in the way that Kitaj championed the British art in which he believed. In the years prior to this painting, Kitaj had been tireless at promoting British figurative painting, most famously in the exhibition he curated entitled The Human Clay (Arts Council, 1976). [10] This mainly comprised drawings and was accompanied by a highly personalised catalogue essay, inspired in large part by Kitaj's recent return to life drawing and by his belief in the importance of this practice for both figuration and abstraction. [11] In the catalogue Kitaj briefly wrote of a 'School of London', using the term loosely, as he later explained to me:

"I meant that a School had arisen, like School of Paris and School of NY, where a number of world-class painters and a larger number of good painters had appeared in London maybe for the first time [...]. Like NY and Paris, the London School will continue until its best painters die. 10 years after The Human Clay, the School of London has no peer abroad [...] the artists are just plain gifted beyond the resources of other schools. For the moment, NY seems played out and Paris doesn't count." [12]

As a testament to the continuing relevance of Kitaj's ideas, in 2011 on the thirty-fifth anniversary of Kitaj's exhibition, I curated Beyond the Human Clay to address its legacy and to propose a new generation of artists. [13] In a catalogue designed in homage to the original graphic design, and an essay that adopted Kitaj's polemical tone, I wrote:

"Over the last half-century the chimneys of Auschwitz and the atom bomb cloud at Hiroshima, the atrocities of Vietnam and the terror of the Cold War have moulded the psyches of artists. Now with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, civil conflict across the Middle East, nuclear meltdown in Japan, global financial crisis and street protest, it is appropriate that the most powerful art of today should seek to address the human predicament and to do so with a new seriousness." [14]

Today Kitaj's paintings and writing about immigration, identity and persecution have taken on a fresh urgency and possess an acute universal relevance, recognised not least in the way that Ben Uri has reformulated its mission since 2001 to reach beyond its Jewish constituency.

* * * * *

In 1983 Leon Kossoff painted one of his greatest group portraits, Family Party (fig 9). A massive, monumental masterpiece, this painting provides us with another context to contemplate: the subject for such grandeur was not an important event, or a gathering of eminent figures to be memorialised forever. Or perhaps it was. Kossoff draws from the figure paintings of Rubens and echoes the composition of a great Gothic tympanum frieze to aggrandise the humble subject of the family. This, for him, is what is most worthy of attention. Kossoff brings us into the home and into an inner world.

It is this very humanity that makes the work so moving, for what is more important than those around us? It is precisely this particularity and intimacy that makes a great painting speak to us: Auerbach returns to the same local streets, Freud paints the same models. Each response to the personal creates an art that is touchingly universal. At times of crisis, what we cling to is the familiar.

Indeed it is striking that the growing international stature of artists such as Bacon, Freud, Auerbach and Kossoff has come post 9/11 as a reassessment of art-world priorities has encouraged a new seriousness. Furthermore, whilst much of the art of the last twenty years already has a passé fin de siècle decadence, serious artists have gained new heights and younger artists have turned increasingly to them for inspiration. [16] Damien Hirst has shown paintings that imitate Francis Bacon. Jenny Saville draws from Lucian Freud. Kitaj's legacy can be seen in works by artists as diverse as Marlene Dumas, Luc Tuymans and Neo Rauch.

This embrace by the establishment and by the art market obscures the fact that previously, for much of their careers, the artists of the School of London had occupied the position of marginalised outsiders. Moreover, as the artists of the battle for realism have grown in international stature, so the status, appreciation and perception of their work has shifted: from private to public, outsider to establishment, obscurity to celebrity, radical to conservative, parallel what can be read, too, as a case study in assimilation. [17] From being outsiders, whether due to ethnicity, religion, sexuality, even artistic practise, they have travelled to the mainstream and then the establishment: Lucian Freud and David Hockney, for example, both accepted the Order of Merit from the Queen.

A recent tendency to downplay the ethnicity and origins of the School of London artists, and to avoid historical assessment, also obscures the fact that for much of their careers these artists had a deeply uneasy relationship with British art. It was only in the 1980s and 1990s that they became assimilated into mainstream readings of British art. However, I would like to propose that from today's perspective it is precisely their status as outsiders clinging to what is most personal and familiar that make the example of these artists so potent. [18]

* * * * *

Just over a century ago, in May 1914, the Whitechapel Art Gallery staged a massive exhibition entitled Twentieth Century Art: A Review of Modern Movements, in which a group of works were labelled 'The Jewish Section'. Today, such ghettoisation would be unthinkable. Moreover, it is because of, rather than despite, the 'School of London' painters fidelity to their roots half a century ago, and precisely because of their high seriousness, that pictures that could be dismissed as anachronistic remain urgent, even essential, in today's dangerous world. This, too, is where the idea of transcendence comes in, for to suggest that these are miserable pictures is to misunderstand their redemptive function. As I argued in an essay entitled 'From Tragedy to Joie de Vivre: Some Thoughts on the Work of Bacon, Freud, Kossoff and Auerbach', however black the roots, these paintings are increasingly uplifting. This is a matter of content as well as form: a lightening of mood, an increased joyfulness in colour and a compelling celebration of the properties of paint. [20] Bacon's ejaculatory paint and smeared bodies show his urgent commitment to the human subject and the role he gave to chance in the creation of his paintings. Freud's worried surfaces reflect his alchemical desire that paint should become flesh. Auerbach's flowing paint conveys an ecstatic moment in which a heightened awareness of paint suddenly coexists with the springing to life of the subject. Kossoff's expressive response captures the intensity of a specific encounter and its personal resonance.

However, whilst these painters remain meaningful, little has been able to grow in their shadow and one of the striking features of the last thirty years is how little legacy they have left in terms of radical painting in Britain. Instead, if one is to locate their legacy, one must turn to other media. Originally, when the so-called Young British Artists (yBas) emerged from Goldsmiths and other art colleges at the end of the 1980s, their values seemed antithetical. Yet twenty-five years on, I would propose that several of the best of these artists can be read as the heirs to the School of London. It's the language that has changed, not the preoccupation with our common humanity, vulnerability and mortality.

One of Rachel Whiteread's most powerful commissions is her eerie Holocaust Memorial (2000, fig 10) for the Judenplatz in Vienna. The Chapman brothers' most profound tableau, Hell (2000, fig. 11), depicts the Holocaust. Anya Gallaccio's moving installation, a floor of 10,000 dying roses entitled Red on Green (1992, fig. 12) poetically traces death on a mass scale. For all the differences in medium, Hirst's boxed and butchered animals (fig. 13) are the descendants of Bacon's paintings of man as meat, and Whiteread's impassive monuments the equivalents of Giacometti's stoic figures.

* * * * *

I began with the Schools of London, Paris and New York, so let's end with another journey through time and place. Let's travel from the Blitz in London and past the twin towers in New York and on to the streets of Paris and the recent murderous attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket. In Paris and across the world people declared 'Je suis Charlie', and at mass demonstrations the placards, held by people of all faiths and none, also declared 'Je Suis Juif'. From the particular to the universal, from the personal to the public, it is this message of our shared humanity that is embodied by the great art of our age. This surely is the message, too, of Ben Uri as it continues to reformulate its mission for its second century.

James Hyman, The Battle for Realism: Figurative Art in Britain during the Cold War (1945-60) (London and New Haven: Yale University Press/Paul Mellon Centre fir Studies in British Art, 2001).

A School of London was first proposed by the great art critic and curator, David Sylvester, in a three-part series of essays on British Art that was one of his most substantial early pieces of writing, and was aimed at boosting the international standing of British art. On this see Hyman, Battle for Realism, introduction.

James Hyman, 'Fifty Years of Hurt', Guardian (22 September 2001).

Hyman, 'Fifty Years', ibid

Jeremy Paxman, The English: A Portrait of a People (Penguin, 1998).

On Kossoff's paintings of London, and their relationship to those of Bomberg and Auerbach, see James Hyman, Golden Builders and the Crowd: Leon Kossoff and London, (Masters thesis, Courtauld Institute, London, 1990). I also explored these ideas in James Hyman, 'Kossoff's London', Tate magazine (summer 1996). Writing of St Paul's I argued: 'For Kossoff hope lies in reconnecting with the past and identifying its legacy in the present. A lost innocence may be recaptured, a childhood memory recollected. Remnants of the past may survive, renewed. Paintings of London are an exhortation for a new world created not from promises of progress or modernity but through redemption and the renewal of a mythologised past. St Paul's Cathedral, for example, serves as a general emblem of faith (Kossoff himself is a Jew), represents the City and provides a signifier for the artist's own childhood. It suggests the possibility of redemption, a glimpse of an elusive place and a return to a lost innocence.'

On Kitaj's The Wedding see James Hyman, 'The Chimney that Chills', BBC World Service, 1992. This was part of a series of six broadcasts that I wrote and presented on Jewish artists. A version of this text was subsequently published by the Jewish cultural affairs journal, Manna, Winter, 1993.

R.B. Kitaj, The First Diasporist Manifesto (Place: publisher, 1989).


In the catalogue Kitaj championed a School of London but it was an exhibition characterised by its diversity and scope in which drawing was presented as central to all painters, whether figurative or abstract. Such promotion gave especial prominence to art school teaching and to the fundamental importance of life drawing. Frequently the suggestion of continuity, through the presentation of such 'traditions' as an essential characteristic of the best British art, was used as a riposte to the supposed decadence to be found elsewhere, particularly in America.

In The Human Clay Kitaj did include those artists now considered to constitute the core of the 'School of London' - namely Michael Andrews, Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff - but he also deliberately blurred distinctions between abstract and figurative artists and to this end selected over 40 other artists. Arts Council records show that the exhibition attracted over 10,000 visitors, but it appears to have had little immediate impact. Critical priorities were elsewhere and Kitaj's reference to a 'School of London' passed unnoticed. Indeed when in 1981 it was proposed once again, this time by the painter, teacher and art historian Lawrence Gowing, he had apparently forgotten Kitaj's earlier reference and claimed authorship of the idea.

In the years after Kitaj and Gowing's references to a 'School of London', their broad conception of a 'School' became honed down to an almost fixed core of six or seven painters. This 'School of London', including Andrews, Auerbach, Bacon, Freud and Kossoff as well as Kitaj, swiftly gained powerful promotion. The label 'School of London', despite the often-used prefix 'so-called', soon became the dominant framework for the presentation of post-war British figurative painting, despite the reservations of the artists themselves. Nonetheless the idea has been greeted with little enthusiasm either by the chief beneficiaries or by those to whom it might be extended.

The presentation of a small core of artists owes most to Michael Peppiatt, and much to the British Council exhibition which he curated A School of London: Six Figurative Painters (British Council, touring exhibition, 1987). Presenting Andrews, Auerbach, Bacon, Freud, Kitaj and Kossoff, this powerful exhibition provided a template for future presentations of a 'School of London' such as From London: Bacon, Freud, Kossoff, Andrews, Auerbach, Kitaj, (British Council, 1995). Despite differences, both exhibitions sought to characterise these very different artists in a way that suggested a commonality of interests. Above all, this was a group of artists for whom the Second World War and its aftermath provided a formative milieu and who, with the radicalism of Giacometti in Paris and de Kooning in New York, created a radical contemporary vision of urban man attuned to a new existentialist sensibility. The same line was also pursued in other exhibitions that stressed the distinctive qualities of the immediate post-war period and its resonance for the painters of the 'School'. Prominent among these were The Hard Won Image: Traditional method and subject in recent British art (Tate, 1984), The Forgotten Fifties (Sheffield City Art Galleries, Sheffield, , 1984) and The Transformation of Appearance- Auerbach, Andrews, Bacon, Freud, Kossoff (Tate Gallery Collection exhibition, Sainsbury Centre, (Norwich 1991).

An apotheosis was reached in 1987, when the core artists of the 'School of London' held centre stage in the main gallery of the Royal Academy's controversial survey British Art of the Twentieth Century: The Modern Movement. This gave Andrews, Auerbach, Bacon, Freud and Kossoff the main gallery of the exhibition. It thereby placed figurative painters of diverse ethnic backgrounds, physically and symbolically at the heart of a national tradition. The same formula was true of an exhibition entitled British Figurative Art of the Twentieth Century which I curated for the British Council for the Israel Museum in Jerusalem in 1992. The initial proposal was that I should curate an exhibition of British artists of Jewish heritage, namely Auerbach, Bomberg, Freud, Kitaj and Kossoff, inspired by the idea of a core group of 'School of London' artists, but this was soon replaced by extending the scope of the exhibition to painters of all backgrounds, by moving back and forwards in time and widening this middle generation. The effect of such exhibitions was to stress national continuity and specifically to secure the perception that contemporary figurative practice was embedded within a national 'tradition' of art school teaching. The creation of international contexts for British figurative painting would add an entirely new dimension, reasserting the radicalism and contemporary resonance of these artists. Examples of such international contextualisation for British figurative art are rare but include Jean Clair's Venice Biennale exhibition, Identity and Alterity: Figures of the Body 1895-1995 in 1995, and, more recently Paint Made Flesh, Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, USA, in 2009.

James Hyman, 'Introduction', in Beyond the Human Clay (London: James Hyman Gallery, 2011) See also the coincidental essay, James Hyman, 'The Human Clay', in Art of England, magazine, (Summer 2011) (pp. 64-7.

Hyman, 'Introduction', Beyond the Human Clay ibid.

Kitaj was, for example, inexplicably omitted from the otherwise impressive The Mystery of Appearance: Conversations Between Ten British Post-War Painters at the Haunch of Venison, London, 2011. This omission was despite the fact that no artist was more central to the 'conversation' it presented between the 'School of London' and British Pop Art painters.

I most recently addressed this contemporary resonance in: James Hyman, The Battle for Realism: British Figurative Painting in the Age of Celebrity (lecture given in Munster, Germany, 5 February 2015). This lecture took place at the time of the LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur's exhibition, Bare Life: From Bacon to Hockney - London Artists Painting from Life, 1950-80 (Munster, 2014-15).

I first addressed the mechanisms behind these shifts in approaches to British art in two essays for Art Monthly as long ago as November 1991. There I wrote about the idea of a 'School of London', declaring that 'the nationalism of the idea and of a proposed tradition of English empiricism adds further problems. Is it valid to trace a lineage back through Coldstream and the Slade and through Euston Road and Camden Town? Is there really such a figurative tradition within British art? If there is, then does it provide a useful conceptual framework for discussion of post-war figuration? What of Francis Bacon, for instance? Within the context of the School of London, Bacon's relationship to French art is almost ignored and his indebtedness to Surrealism altogether hidden. Furthermore, if one wishes to find examples of fidelity to the subject and the rigours of life drawing one might equally well look abroad. Given the familiarity of his work and his personal links with British artists, one is unlikely to find a more relevant artist than Alberto Giacometti. When it comes to the post-war years we still seem to be in the grip of a persistent, even pernicious Little Englandism, an insularity that presents figurative artists of whatever background as part of a national tradition and marginalises their place as part of a band of international painters whose bloody-minded pursuit of appearance was intensified by the hegemony of abstraction.
In the 1980s it became apparent that in the promotion of British figurative painting, it was not the new heights reached by these artists, nor their radical pursuit of the real, that was at the forefront of the claims made for them. Instead, all too often, their work was appropriated and presented as an antidote to the excesses perceived in international vanguard culture. In Britain, the critic Peter Fuller had an undeniable importance through his pioneering essays of the 1970s and 1980s, championing critically neglected artists such as Bomberg, Auerbach and Kossoff, but all too frequently his acute insights into these artists were blunted by the role he assigned to them as a riposte to all that he deplored in contemporary, especially American, culture. Similarly, in America, Robert Hughes used the pages of Time to deride the art he saw around him in New York and to praise the supposedly antithetical values represented by Freud and Auerbach.

Including fifty-four works, the Jewish section was guided by the choices of David Bomberg and the display included not just familiar Anglo-Jewish artists such as Gertler, Brodsky, Rosenberg, Meninsky and Wolmark but also, following a visit by Bomberg and Epstein to Paris, works by Modigliani, Pascin and Kisling. I addressed the issue of ghettoisation in response to this exhibition in an essay for the catalogue of the Ben Uri Gallery exhibition, Making Waves, in 2003. The exhibition included mainly non-Jewish artists and had a particular emphasis on landscape, which could be used as a foil to much of the work in the Ben Uri's own collection and encourage the identification of difference: 'Whilst many Jewish artists might be said to inhabit a realm of earth and fire, these British artists inhabit a lighter world of air and water []. Whilst twentieth-century art by Jewish artists has often been characterised as expressionist and figurative - an urban art of domestic interiors and mundane neighbourhoods - the British artists in the present exhibition are more emotionally detached as they explore the countryside from land, sea and sky or pursue innovative new Modernist paths.' Nevertheless, I concluded, 'Almost ninety years since the Whitechapel's survey of Modern Art, today's Jewish artists fight against any such separation, their social and cultural assimilation a riposte to any such ghettoisation. Furthermore, the most significant British artists of today - ranging from painters such as Freud, Auerbach and Kossoff to the sculptors Caro and Kapoor - long ago assumed their rightful place alongside the major figures of post-war art not as Jewish artists but as powerful and distinct individuals. It is fitting, then, that this exhibition should be shown at the Ben Uri, where the story of Jewish art really is the story of art.
James Hyman, 'From Tragedy to Joie de Vivre: Some Thoughts on the Work of Bacon, Freud, Kossoff and Auerbach', in Bacon, Freud, Kossoff, Auerbach, Galerie Sander, Berlin, 2003. unpaginated.

© 2021 James Hyman Gallery, PO Box 72888,

Tel: +44 (0) 7766 331697

Privacy Policy

  • James Hyman Fine Art Ltd. Company number 3866544
  • James Hyman Photography Ltd. Company number 9327337
  • VAT registration no. 202526354
  • all works are offered subject to availability and price revision