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. Martin Bloch

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Martin Bloch was born in November 1883 in Neisse, Silesia/Poland (then Germany). His father owned a lace & linen factory. Martin died in exile in London in 1954. From 1902 to 1905 he studied architecture and art at the University of Berlin; in 1905 he studied aesthetics in Munich, returning to Berlin in 1907 to attend drawing classes with Lois Corinth. During WW1 he lived in Spain. In 1923 he opened the Bloch-Kerschbaumer School of Painting in Berlin, which became very popular with students from all over Europe. When Kerschbaumer died in 1926, Karl Schmidt-Rottluf took his place. In 1933 he had a disagreement with the Nazi administration over an exhibition and promptly was declared a painter of "Degenerate Art". A year later he was forced to leave Germany and emigrated with his wife and daughter to Britain. In 1947 he became a British citizen. His contact with Wales came about through Josef Herman. Bloch paints in Bethesda, North Wales in the 1940s and 1950s.
His influences were Max Liebermann and Lovis Corinth.

Initially, Bloch studied music and architecture (subjects which reoccured repeatedly in his paintings), then opted for art studying in Munich and Berlin notably with Lovis Corinth. His life as a painter spanned three distinct periods. From 1914 to 1919 he lived and worked in Spain where he painted one of his favourite subjects, i.e. the human figure in a landscape setting, in this case washerwomen and workers planting and treading grapes. From 1920 to 1933 he was based in Berlin, periodically travelling to Italy, e.g. Venice & Lake Garda. There, apart from architectural paintings and scenes around Lake Garda, he depicted fishermen and workers in the silk industry. As Grove's Dictionary of Art (p.143) states: "In 1933 Bloch fled to Britain when he was declared a degenerate artist by the Nazis. In London, with Roy de Maistre, he opened his School of Contemporary Painting...Later he taught at Camberwell School of Art. Although he shared the heightened palette & injectivity of the German Expressionists his lyrical humanism & classical sense of composition allied him with the modern French tradition". Bloch's association with the Expressionists included Karl Schmidt-Rottluff with whom he shared the running of an art school in Berlin. The latter had taken over from Anton Kerschbaumer who died in 1931. At the time he was also connected to 'Die Bruecke'. On his way to Britain he spent a year in Denmark where he met and interacted with Bertold Brecht. His host & friend in Denmark was the author Karin Michaelis; their correspondence is preserved among her papers at the Royal Library in Copenhagen. Eventually, Bloch settled in London where he primarily painted London scenes. He earned his living by teaching. One of the distinguished students at his art school in London in the mid-1930s was Heinz Koppel, who had also left Berlin for Britain in 1936 (Peter Lord, 'Industrial Society' p.236). Bloch travelled widely in North America, i.e. 1948 in the USA where he taught for a while in Minneapolis and Princeton, 1952 in Canada where a travelling exhibition of his work was held.

In 1944 Martin Bloch met Josef Herman, another emigré painter from the Continent. Between 1947 & 1954 Bloch repeatedly visited Wales, especially Herman in Ystradgynlais with whom he shared an exhibition at the Ben Uri Gallery in London in 1949. He also travelled to Llandudno, Bangor & Bethesda on a number of occasions. This led to a group of paintings (9 in all) depicting the Welsh landscape and the human figure in that particular landscape setting such as quarrymen in North Wales and coal miners in South Wales.
Bloch was a master of technique, a brilliant colourist inspired by a personal relationship with the medium itself. He mistrusted the posturing of art groups and 'movements' and, along with the fragmented nature of his personal life history, remained somewhat apart from the fashionable rush towards abstraction in contemporary Britain at the time. The paintings he produced during the last seven years of his life were often worked and reworked over several years and their completion dates in some cases extended to a number of years after their original conception. Thus, in several of the pictures conceived in Wales, the date of the visit and the date of the finished work may be many years apart. For example, "Welsh Village" which was originally purchased by the Arts Council of Wales and which is now held by the Brecknock Museum & Art Gallery in Brecon, was given its title in 1955, after the artist's death, when it was shown for the first time. Other paintings from his Welsh period are: 1947 'Bangor at Nightfall' at the National Gallery of Norway in Oslo; 1950 'Down from Welsh Quarries' held by the Arts Council of England; 1950/1 'Down from the Bethesda Quarries' at the National Galleries of Wales in Cardiff; 1952/54 'Afternoon in Bangor' at Tate Britain in London; 'Slate Heaps in North Wales' (date unknown) in the Bloch family collection.

Commissions: The painting "Down From Bethesda Quarry" for the 'Festival of Britain' exhibition in 1951 (now at the National Galley of Wales Cardiff) and others.

International Links:
public collections abroad=Berlinische Gallery Berlin/Germany; Museum der Stadt Berlin/Germany; Kronprinzen Palais Berlin/Germany; Kunsthalle Hamburg/Germany; Leo Beck Institute New York/USA; Busch Reisinger Museum, Harvard University/USA; National Gallery of Art Washington DC/USA; Princetown University Museum/USA; San Francisco Museum of Art/USA; Musee Cinematheque Paris/France; Museum of Tel Aviv/Israel; National Gallery of Canada; National Gallery of Norway;

exhibitions abroad=many before 1934; 1948 Walker Art Centre Minneapolis USA, 1952 Brit.Travel.Exhib.Canada, 1958 Kunstkabinet Frankfurt etc, posthumous touring exhibition through Germany;

Represented in all major permanent collections in Britain, and in many in the USA and Germany.


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