David Bomberg was born into an impoverished Jewish-Polish immigrant family in Birmingham in 1890. He started his career in 1905 as an apprentice lithographer, and later followed courses at Westminster School of Art (1908-1910). From 1911 to 1913 he was the pupil of Walter Richard Sickert at the Slade School of Fine Art, at the same time as Mark Gertler, Paul Nash, Christopher Nevinson and Stanley Spencer, funding himself through art school by working as a life model. Already hugely influenced by experimental art in Europe, particularly Cubism and Futurism, Bomberg travelled to Paris in 1913 and in this year he was expelled from the Slade. Bomberg was loosely affiliated with many avant-garde groups in London including Roger Fry’s Omega Workshops and the Camden Town Group but his angular, bombastic, violent paintings in the two years leading up the war reveal his proximity to Wyndham Lewis’s Vorticist Group with whom Bomberg exhibited in 1915, although Bomberg turned down an invitation to officially join the group. Several masterpieces from these early years are held by the Tate Gallery, London including In The Hold (1913-14) and The Mud Bath (1914).
Bomberg served in the trenches during World War I, and during the war both his brother and his close friend and fellow Slade student Isaac Rosenberg died. After 1918, and especially from 1920 onwards, he practised a rigorous Cubism, based on powerful angular forms and near to abstraction, although centred around figurative reference points. In 1929, after a trip to Spain, he abandoned his previous style, turning instead to a more informal whilst still dynamic Expressionism in which line is subordinate to stark, thickly built-up colour. He subsequently applied this style to the landscapes of England and especially of Spain and Palestine, as well as to self-portraits or portraits of his wife and close members of his family. Between 1946 and 1953 he was a lecturer at Borough Polytechnic, teaching such young painters as Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff, and he also exhibited with the Borough Group and Borough Bottega. He died in 1957 in London.