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The following is my first guest column, written by our friend Peter Risdon, an expert and an ardent fan of Alfred Wolmark.

Alfred Wolmark Self-Portrait

Alfred Wolmark Self-Portrait

Alfred Wolmark came to England as a child in the 1880s, when his parents fled Poland. He early developed skill at drawing and after studying at the Royal Academy School he became a full-time painter. His early works reflected his parents’ Jewish circle, but after 1910 he took inspiration from the French avant-garde Fauves and painted many works in strong, imaginative colours, with less concern for exact drawing.

Wolmark was one of the pioneers of Modernist art in Britain, and before the First World War he was a close friend of the French sculptor Gaudier-Brzeska (of whom he painted remarkable portraits), and of Jacob Epstein, mixed with the members of Sickert’s London Group. Between 1910 and 1935 he achieved his full potential as a creative artist, and he was active in many fields other than painting, such as stage design, ceramics, posters and sculpture. He designed a huge stained glass window for St Mary’s church at Slough, which can still be seen.

He took his subjects from the whole range of portraits, landscapes, still-lifes, and nudes both mythological and profane. Portrait sketches were a feature of his work and many important cultural figures sat for him, such as Thomas Hardy, Somerset Maugham, and Aldous Huxley.

Wolmark travelled widely within Britain, to Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and Devon, and in Europe to Paris and Switzerland, where he painted numerous mountain scenes. Further afield, in 1919 he went to New York where he painted several skyscraper views, and in 1927 to Tunis where he painted the local people.

He lived in London, except for a few years during the Second World War when he and his family sought safety in Oxfordshire. He moved to St Paul’s Studios at the end of the war and settled into his last home there.

Never a member of a prominent artistic group, he preferred to mix socially with other artists with progressive views and to plough his own furrow throughout a long and productive life of over 80 years until his death in 1961. His works can be seen in public collections such as the National Portrait Gallery, Tate Britain and Birmingham City Art Gallery. In his lifetime he exhibited widely in Britain and Europe, and a large exhibition was shown at the Ben Uri Gallery, London, and the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull in 2004 (here a link to the Exhibition Announcement).

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