David Bomberg



Not on display

David Bomberg 1890–1957
Oil paint on board
Support: 718 × 600 mm
frame: 825 × 750 × 65 mm
Purchased 1968

Display caption

In 1954, tired of the continual lack of attention paid to him and the Borough Group, Bomberg returned to Spain where he’d worked in the mid 1930s. He made his last works there, including a series of portraits like this.

Bomberg used an old gypsy woman as a model, but this work, like the others, is more of a statement about his own physical and mental state. Isolated and beleaguered, he became increasingly introspective, vulnerable and defensive. The title reflects a sense of watchfulness while the fragmented surface reflects, perhaps, increasing bodily collapse.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

T01086 VIGILANTE 1955
Inscribed ‘Bomberg 55’ b.l.
Oil on board, 28 1/4×23 5/8 (72×60).
Purchased from Dennis Creffield (Knapping Fund) 1968.
Coll: Bought by Dennis Creffield from Mrs Lilian Bomberg, 1958.
Exh: Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings by members of the Borough Bottega and invited guests, Walker's Galleries, March–April 1955 (36); London Group, 1955 (14, as ‘Vigilante Espana’); Arts Council Retrospective, Sept.–Oct. 1958, and tour (48); Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry, Sept. 1960 (98); Arts Council Retrospective, Tate Gallery, March–April 1967, and tour (102).

Painted at Ronda in Spain.

Dennis Creffield wrote (25 September 1968): ‘Vigilante is among the last paintings that Bomberg made. It is one of a group of “imaginative portraits” viz. “The Franciscan”, “Hear O Israel” and “Soliloquy at Noon” and does of course relate to the last self portrait... He was able as he once said “to extemporize in front of nature” - discovering in the painting - in the act of painting - a mood which becomes a key to its identity.’

Mrs Lilian Bomberg wrote (7 May 1969): ‘It was my custom to search in Ronda at that time for possible interesting models, and the model for VIGILANTE was one of these whom I brought to Villa Paz.

‘She was a very old Gypsy, named EDUARDA, elegant, refined, and very dignified, somewhat remote, with gaunt, weather beaten features, and a kind of masculinity, yet very gentle. She had traversed the mountains on foot, most of her life, selling her wares from village to village, and David's painting of her came out this way.

‘David was himself the model for both “HEAR OH ISRAEL” (if you knew his hands, you would recognize them in this work) and “THE FRANCISCAN”.

‘One day, -it was at the time the works were being prepared for me to take to London for the BOROUGH BOTTEGA Exhibition at the Walker Galleries, Bond Street, David set them all out in the big Comedor, and we discussed the titles from the character and feeling given off in the works. I suggested “Vigilante” and “Soliloquy at Noon” which David thought right, and David suggested “Hear Oh Israel” and “The Franciscan” which I thought exactly right.’

On the reverse of T01086 is a painting of a mountainous landscape, which Mrs Bomberg confirmed must also, on grounds of style, have been painted around 1955. Mr Peter Richmond told the compiler that it gave every appearance of being a distant view of the hilltop town of Zahara; he and Bomberg had both done paintings of Zahara on an expedition together from Ronda. Mrs Bomberg confirmed that Zahara was the probable subject.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery: Acquisitions 1968-9, London 1969

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