Artist: Jankel Adler

Date of Birth:
Date of Death:
Place of Death:
Whitley Cottage, Aldbourne, Wiltshire
Residence in Dumfries & Galloway:

Lived in Kirkcudbright, probably late 1942-1943 before moving to London. Apparently lived in a wooden house behind the old pottery in Millburn Street by the studio off Millburn Street, which had been used by R Macaulay Stevenson and later by Cecile Walton.


Barmen School of Art


Paul Klee


Knew Josef Herman before meeting him again in Glasgow; shared flat with William Crosbie. Strong influence on Robert McBryde and Robert Colquhoun.


Jankel Adler, Dumont Buchverlag, Koln, 1985Jankel Adler Redfern Gallery June 1943.  Exhibition contained many important works completed during stay in Kirkcudbright.  Introduction by Herbert Read. Jankel Adler 1895-1949, Memorial Exhibition (exhibition catalogue), Arts Council, 1951.  Jankel Adler, introduction by Stanley William Hayter, London 1948 (includes Venus of Kirkcudbright 1943), then in the posession of the artist.  40 ans de Peinture by Alfred Rozelaar Green refers to Adler’s work with the Anglo French Art Centre in London after the war.  The 1993 exhibition at the City Art Centre, Edinburgh, Polish Roots – British Soil, included work by Adler.  The Night Fisherman Selected Letters of W S Graham, edited by Michael and Margaret Snow contains references to Adler in Glasgow and London.  Tales of the Kirkcudbright Artists, Haig Gordon, Kirkcudbright, 2006

Image, photograph of Jankel Adler seated in front of The Mutilated,1943.  The photograph by Vernon Richards was published in A part-time Photographers Portrait Gallery, Freedom Press, 1999 and is reproduced with the permission of Freedom Press.


A Polish-Jewish artist, born in Tuszyn, a suburb of Lodz, in Poland, Jankel Adler went to Germany in 1913. He studied painting at Barmen School of Art, 1913.  He was in Poland in 1919 then went back to Germany, where he was a friend of Klee in Dusseldorf in the early 1930s.  Adler left Germany 1933.  Whilst in Paris he knew Picasso.

Adler joined the Polish Army in France and was evacuated to Scotland in 1940.  He was discharged from the army on medical grounds in 1941 and moved to Glasgow, where he was one of a number of influential refugees, who enhanced the artistic life of the city.  He exhibited his work at the New Art Club, established by J D Fergusson and was associated with the Scott Street Art Centre established by David Archer as a meeting place and resource centre.

He met other Polish artists in Glasgow including Josef Herman.  Visited Kilquhanity School, probably first in connection with Margaret Morris summer school.  Sydney Graham, who had helped him translate an article on Klee in Glasgow was working there at the time.  Also spent New Year there. C M Grieve may also have been present.  His work, The Artist’s Studio, c1940-1942, presumably featuring his Glasgow studio was sold in 1990.  Jankel Adler spent a number of months in Kirkcudbright, where he was known as “Totty” Adler by the locals before setting off for London, where he held an important exhibition at the Redfern Gallery.

Adler came to London in May 1943 and it was in London that he met and influenced Colquhoun, MacBryde and other young artists.  At the end of the war Ronald Searle and John Wyndham lived in the same building at 77 Bedford Gardens.

Among the thirty works exhibited in 1943 are some of his most significant pieces including The Two Rabbis now in MOMA, New York and the work, which links him most closely with Kirkcudbright, The Venus of Kirkcudbright.  The full list was:
1 Siren
2 No Man’s Land
3 Priest
4 Bal Schem’s daughter
5 Still life with cabalistic signs
6 The two Rabbis
7 Woman
8 Room with Cat
9 Interior with woman
10 Venus of Kirkcudbright
11 Peasant woman with cow
12 Woman with still life
13 The Mutilated
14 Seated Woman
15 Desruction
16 Beginning of a Revolt
17 Still life
18 Tension
19 Dancer 1
20 Dancer 2
21 Girl
22 The Seer
23 Bird
24 Young Widow
25 Woman
26 Composition
27 Girl waiting
28 Sapho
29 Mother comforting child
30 Girl with still life

Jankel Adler (1895-1945) is perhaps the artist, whose work in Galloway had the greatest influence on other British artists.  Born in Tuszyn a suburb of Lodz in Poland Adler studied painting at the Barmen School of Art in Germany.  A friend of Paul Klee in Dusseldorf in the early thirties he left Germany in 1933.  An associate of Picasso in France he joined the Polish army there at the outbreak of World War II.  He was evacuated to Scotland in 1940.  Invalided out of the army in 1941 he was associated with another Polish artist in Glasgow Josef Herman and also began to influence Scottish artists notably William Crosbie.

It was a visit or visits to the new Kilquhanity School near Castle Douglas in 1942 that led him to spending about six months in Kirkcudbright with the aim of building up a portfolio of work for exhibition in London.  Adler probably worked in the old mill, later Tommy Lochead’s pottery and left for London to exhibit at the Redfern Gallery in June 1943.  In London he met up with the two young Scottish artists Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde, known as “The Two Roberts”.  Starved of European influence as they were, Adler had an enormous effect on Colquhoun, MacBryde and others, which continued after the war through his involvement with the Anglo French Arts Centre.

Adler lived for a time at 77 Bedford Gardens where other residents at the end of the war included Ronald Searle (who had also visited Kirkcudbright at the beginning of the war) and John Wyndham.  He died at Aldbourne in Wiltshire in 1949.