Ben Uri gifts important Bloomsbury portrait to the National Portrait Gallery

Art Daily, 8 February 2022

The National Portrait Gallery accepted the inter-museum transfer of an important Bloomsbury portrait of Sir Sydney Waterlow by Mark Gertler (1891–1939). The transfer is
made by Ben Uri Gallery and Museum as part of their commitment to release hidden quality works from long-term storage to generate greater public benefit.


Rosie Broadley, Head of Collections Displays (Victorian – Contemporary) at the National Portrait Gallery, said: “We are so grateful to Ben Uri Gallery and Museum for generously transferring this important work to the National Portrait Gallery. It’s a welcome addition to the Gallery’s Collection, which includes a number of key portraits depicting the sitter’s Bloomsbury contemporaries.” 

Sarah MacDougall, Director, Ben Uri Gallery and Museum comments: “We are delighted that this important work has found the right home in such a distinguished national collection, alongside other Bloomsbury portraits by Gertler and others”.

This portrait of Sir Sydney Waterlow (1878–1944), known affectionately in his family as 'Monarch', captures the diplomat and Bloomsbury Group member (who once proposed marriage to Virginia Woolf) mid-career. Waterlow was also a member of Gertler's all-male group of friends (predominantly writers and intellectuals), known as 'the Thursdays', who met weekly at his Hampstead home throughout the 1920s and 1930s. An excellent likeness, the modulated skin tones and flamboyant moustache relieve the sober palette. This portrait was exhibited under the title 'Portrait of Mr. S. W.' at Gertler's second solo exhibition at the Goupil Gallery, London, in February 1922.


‘Whitechapel Boy’ Mark Gertler was born in Spitalfields, London to Austrian-Jewish immigrant parents, raised in London’s East End and attended the Slade School of Fine Art.


His best-known painting, Merry-go-Round (1916, Tate) capturing his pacifist sentiments was painted at the height of the First World War. Gertler socialised with members of the Bloomsbury Group at the London and Garsington homes of Lady Ottoline Morrell, including artists Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Roger Fry, art critic Clive Bell, and writers Virginia Woolf and Lytton Strachey, with whom Gertler fell out over his unrequited love for his muse and fellow painter, Dora Carrington.


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