David Bomberg

Study for ‘The Vision of Ezekiel’

c.1912

Medium
Chalk and graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 565 x 686 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the executors of Mrs Helen Bentwich 1972
Reference
T01681

Display caption

Bomberg was never officially a member of the Vorticist Group although he was closely associated with the Vorticists. Between 1911 and 1913 he studied at the Slade School of Art, where his single-minded exploration of pictorial structure influenced fellow student William Roberts. Both this study and Roberts's 'The Return of Ulysses' indicate a shared interest in the depiction of dynamic forms. This is the last of three studies for 'The Vision of Ezekiel'. It has been squared up for enlargement. The sense of struggle between the figures is stronger in the studies than in the final painting. Bomberg's brother was a professional wrestler and a wrestling match may have provided the basis of Bomberg's picture.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

David Bomberg 1890–1857

T01681 Study for ‘The Vision of Ezekiel’ 1912

Inscribed ‘David Bomberg 1913’b.l.
Black chalk, pencil, carbon pencil on paper,22¼ x 27 (56.2x 68.6).
Presented by the executors of Mrs Helen Bentwich 1972.
Coll: Sir Robert and Lady Waley-Cohen; Professor Norman and Mrs Helen Bentwich.
Exh: Arts Council, September–October 1958 (53) and tour Newcastle, Swansea, Middlesbrough, Kettering and Bradford.
Lit: The Tate Gallery 1970–72, 1972, p.87.

This work is the last of three preparatory drawings for ‘The Vision of Ezekiel’ (see catalogue entry for T01197 in The Tate Gallery 1970–72, p.87) in which the scheme becomes increasingly formal and ordered. This drawing has the tight organisation of the final painting and is squared up for enlargement.

Mrs Clare Winston, a fellow student of Bomberg’s at the Slade recalled (letter to the compiler 15 May 1974) ‘“The Vision of Ezekiel” was not a set subject. Like many artists he did the painting first and hunted for the title afterwards. That is what happened: I had shown him a painting I did (and which was praised by William Rothenstein) an illustration of Robert Browning’s poem “Rabbi Ben Ezra” and so he named his “Ezekiel”.’

It is possible that there is a theatrical basis for the work in some performance seen at the Pavilion Theatre in Whitechapel. Some kind of wrestling combat may also have partly formed the basis of the composition. The sense of struggle is stated more strongly in the drawings than in the final painting. Bomberg’s brother was a professional wrestler and Helen Kapp recalled (in a letter to the compiler 19 March 1974) ‘I remember Bernard Meninsky saying once that he, Bomberg and Gertler loved to go off and watch boxing in the East End.’

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.