Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a Mother and Child Embracing 

Jacob Kramer (1892-1962)

Portrait of a Mother and Child Embracing, Jacob Kramer
Oil and Canvas
20th Century
30 x 25 in. (76.1 x 63.5 cm.)
Private Collection, UK.
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The present work, which sensitively portrays a mother and child embracing, is by the Anglo-Ukrainian painter Jacob Kramer, and is a welcome re-addition to his earlier, more experimental body of works.

Kramer was born in Chernigov in Ukraine but moved to Leeds in 1900, where a large community of Jewish immigrants who had left the persecution and hardship in Eastern Europe, had begun to form. In 1907 Kramer began attending evening classes at the Leeds School of Art and between 1913-14 he studied in London at the Slade, after receiving sponsorship from the Jewish Educational Aid Society. After a brief foray into artistic experimentation (in 1915 he was invited to exhibit at the first Vorticist exhibition), he returned to Leeds in 1915 where a family bereavement and subsequent financial difficulties required a return to a more commercial naturalistic style. Soon however, Kramer shook off his conformity and once again slipped back into the more exciting guise of his student days, producing some highly idiosyncratic works such as The Day of Atonement (1919) [Leeds Museums and Galleries], which shows a group of Jewish men walking solemnly to prayer. These works, which were produced from about 1917 onwards, reveal Kramerís preference for devotional subject matter, stylistically set against plain, sometimes even black, backgrounds.

This work was almost certainly produced towards the end of the First World War, and shares a number of stylistic similarities with the portrait Ruhula painted in 1917 [Leeds Museums and Galleries]. In both works we see Kramer experimenting with an almost sculptural depiction of his subject in profile, using large areas of block colouring seen most obviously in the flowing red hair and within the background. It is quite possible that Kramer used the same models for both these works.
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