David Bomberg born 5 December 1890 in Birmingham moved to Whitechapel in the East End of London aged 5 where he spent the remainder of his childhood.
The family first lived at Brushfield Street, later moving to Tenter Building, St Mark’s Street, Whitechapel. His mother was a devoted supporter of his art and even rented a studio near their home. It was here, supposedly through using a broken mirror that he drew and painted early self-portraits.
He studied at the Westminster School of Art from 1908 – 1910 and then from 1911 - 1913 the Slade School of Art under Henry Tonks. As a student he showed an extraordinary understanding of Futurism and Cubism and was known an artist of avant-garde art in England by 1914.
The East End influenced his work and featured in his work. St Mark’s Street was only a short walk from the Pavilion Theatre on Whitechapel High Street where he could have seen Yiddish comedies and to the south was the river, which provided the picturesque subjects for his later paintings.
One of Bomberg’s most famous paintings is ‘The Mud Bath’, which is on display at the Tate. It is based on the Schewik’s baths on Brick Lane near the Spitalfields Synagogue.
In 1913 Bomberg won the Henry Tonks Prize for ‘Head of a Poet’, a work which was a study of his friend and fellow student Isaac Rosenberg.
Isaac Rosenberg, a fellow Jewish East Ender, formed a friendship with Bomberg when they met at Whitechapel Gallery for first time. Their backgrounds were similar, with both having started drawing and painting from a young age, with support from their mothers. They were also similar in their reaction to their Jewishness because they both rejected orthodoxy. However, they were most similar in their politics, as they had both joined the Youth Socialist League.
The friendship between these two artists was cemented further at the Slade School of Art when Bomberg would protect Rosenberg from anti-Semitic bullies, being Rosenberg’s ‘unofficial guardian’.
Post the Second World War, Bomberg became a teacher, teaching an evening classes at Dagenham, a drawing class at the Bartlett School of Architecture and evening classes at the Borough Polytechnic Institute (now the London Southbank University).
Bomberg died in 1957.
[P07167] Black and white photo of Whitechapel c.1890