Jankiel Adler. An Hassidic progressive artist

Contribute by: dr. Sarah Palermo, art historian, fine arts exhibitions curator

Jankiel Jakub Adler (26 July 1895 – 25 April 1949) was born in a large Hasidist Jewish family in Tuszyn, a suburb of Łódź. He was a Polish painter and printmaker. In 1912 he began training as an engraver in Belgrade.

He moved to Germany in 1914 and studied at the college of arts and crafts with Prof. Gustav Wiethücher. In 1919 he returned to Łódź where he found the Jung Jidysz, a group of avant-garde artists. In May 1922 in Dusseldorf, he participated in the International Congress of Progressive Artists and signed the “Founding Proclamation of the Union of International Progressive Artists”. 

He also joined Franz Seiwert and Otto Freundlich in a group of artists known as The Cologne Progressives. He taught at the Academy of Arts and met Paul Klee, who influenced his work. A painting by Adler received a gold medal at the “German art Düsseldorf” exhibition in 1928. 

Adler was heavily influenced by Picasso and Léger, he liked to experiment with materials, such as sand mixes, he painted Jewish subjects and some abstract compositions. In July 1932, during the electoral campaign with a group of artists and left-wing intellectuals, he published an urgent appeal against the policy of the nazism and for communism. 

In 1933 two of his paintings were exhibited by the Nazis at the Mannheimer Arts Center as examples of Entartete Kunst (degenerate art). 

Adler lived in Paris where consciously regarded his exile as political resistance against the fascist regime in Germany. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, he volunteered for the Polish Army in France then he was discharged for health reasons and later moved to Scotland, he created his famous Venus of Kirkcudbright. He died in 1949 at the age of 53.

The Baal Shem Tov’s Daughter, 1943. 112 x 86.1 cm. (44.1 x 33.9 in.) oil on canvas.*

*Historical note: The Baal Shem Tov’s Daughter is a portrait of the daughter of BeShT (pseudonymous of the Polish Hassidic thinker Israel ben Eliezer 1698-1760) famous for his panentheistic philosophical theory. His daughter, Odel, born in 1720, Married Yachiel Michel and was mother of genealogies of hassidic thinkers: Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sudilkov, who wrote the classic Chassidic text Degel Machaneh Efraim; Boruch’l of Mezhibuzh and Faiga, who was mother of Nachman of Breslov.

Jankiel Adler Mother and Child (78.1 x 57.1) oil on canvas

Contribute by:

dr. Sarah Palermo, (Rome 1984) art historian and arts exibition curator, from the beginning she has set as objective of her research the art linked to sociological and photographical context and studies about surrealism. She works in the cultural and artistic background of Rome and Paris and has written several essays about contemporary art and history of photography.  Her publications include “Unica Zürn. I doni della follia” for research journals and several collaborations with newspapers and portals of art and culture.