David Bomberg

Jerusalem, Looking to Mount Scopus


Not on display

David Bomberg 1890–1957
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 565 × 752 mm
frame: 756 × 940 × 65 mm
Purchased 1972

Display caption

In 1917 the British Government had declared support for the 'establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people'. Six years later Bomberg, a Jewish artist from the East End of London, was commissioned by a Zionist organisation to paint images of Jewish settlements in Jerusalem. However, Bomberg was not a supporter of Zionism and found the British Government officials in Jerusalem more congenial patrons. The painstakingly detailed depiction of buildings in this painting probably reflects their desire to see a faithful description of the ancient city which they hoped to restore and protect from modernisation.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

David Bomberg 1890–1857

T01683 Jerusalem, Looking to Mount Scopus 1925

Inscribed ‘Bomberg 25’ b.r. Canvas, 22¼ x 29¿ (56.2 x 74.5).
Purchased from the Estate of Mrs Helen Bentwich (Gytha Trust) 1973.
Coll: Sir Robert and Lady Waley-Cohen; the artist’s collection; Professor Norman and Mrs Helen Bentwich.
Exh: Jewish Art and Antiquities, Whitechapel Art Gallery, May–June 1927 (15), as ‘South East Corner, Jerusalem’; Leicester Galleries, February 1928 (15) as ‘The S.E. Corner of Jerusalem’; Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry, September 1960 (26) as ‘Jerusalem Palestine’, wrongly dated 1924; Tate Gallery, March–April 1967 (46) and subsequent tour to Hull, Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham.

This work was painted in 1925, after Bomberg’s return from his second trip to Petra. Alice Mayes, the artist’s first wife, who accompanied him during his stay in Palestine recorded that ‘we first lived on the hills by the station, looking over to “The Mound of Olives and Scopus”, in an Arab settlement.’ (William Lipke, David Bomberg, 1967, p.56).Bomberg painted at least three other views of Mount Scopus which also include the Church of The Holy Sepulchre, seen to the left of this composition: ‘Jerusalem, Looking to Mount Scopus’ (12¾ x 9¼ in., formerly collection of Mrs Holliday, now destroyed), ‘Minaret and Crusader Tower (Holy Sepulchre) Jerusalem’ (16 x 20 in., formerly collection of the artist) and ‘The Church of The Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem’. A photograph of ‘Minaret and Crusader Tower (Holy Sepulchre) Jerusalem’ in the Tate photograph collection is inscribed in the artist’s hand: ‘Mount Scopus in background with Memorial to British Soldiers who fell in Palestine.’ The war memorial by Sir John Burnett R.A. also appears in T01683.

‘Jerusalem, Looking to Mount Scopus’ belongs to the artist’s period of naturalism, in which he recorded the brittle clarity of the Palestinian sunlight with an exact attention to detail. However, in the treatment of the buildings in the middle distance there is a cubist-like splintering reminiscent of his earlier work.

The painting has been given varying titles. Mrs Lilian Bomberg, the artist’s widow, wrote (letter to the compiler 6 March 1974) ‘according to my catalogues in which this painting is listed, I find it as No.15 in the Leicester Galleries Exhibition 1928 under the title ‘The S.E. Corner of Jerusalem’ (Lent by Sir Robert and Lady Cohen).

‘It afterwards passed into the possession of Professor and Mrs Norman Bentwich and apparently the title was then changed to “Jerusalem, Looking Towards Mount Scopus” and as you say in the Coventry Exhibition [1960] it was simply called “Jerusalem Palestine”.

“I should think the first title at the Leicester Galleries Exhibition would be the original title given to this work by David and so the most correct.’

However, Mrs Kitty Newmark, the artist’s sister has a record of the painting being put into store on 23 August 1929 and being insured for 40 guineas (letter to the compiler 22 February 1974). The work had re-joined the artist’s collection for a brief period in 1929 and it is possible that it was given its alternative title ‘Jerusalem, Looking To Mount Scopus’ at this date.

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

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