History of artist
Jacob Kramer was born in the Ukraine in 1892.His father had trained as a
painter under Repin in St. Petersburg,enjoying court patronage.His mother
was an opera singer.They enjoyed a cultured and reasonably comfortable way
of life.This quality of Eastern European life is apparent in his art.
In 1900 he and his parents and three siblings had to flee from the
Russian progroms.They came to Leeds in England and lived in four rooms. His
father made a living out of the hack industry of photographic
portraiture,and their life was a struggle to make ends meet.His father had
to find work in a photographic factory,because his eyesight had deteriorated
and he was unable to see to paint.Jacob attended Darley Street Council
School and in the evening used to attend night classes in Art at Leeds
School of Art.In 1910 he first received financial help from the Jewish
Educational Aid Society and as a result of this he won a day scholarship to
the Leeds school of Art for two years. During this time he received helpful
advice, encouragement and financial help from Sir Michael Sadler,vice
chancellor of Leeds University.Sir Michael also bought his drawings as he
was a very keen art collector himself.
Jacob was a very gifted and
promising student. In 1912 the Jewish Educational Aid Society arranged for
him to have a loan so that he could attend The Slade School of Art in
London.He was there for 1 year from 1913 to 1914,but during that time he
made some very good friends among the artists who were studying
there,including Bomberg,Nevinson,Roberts and Gertler and became one of the
leaders in the art world of the day.These artists apart from Roberts were
all Jewish,and they formed the nucleus of what became the Ben Uri Society of
Art,London. Jacob's sister Sarah met William Roberts,who was at the Slade at
the same time as Jacob,while on holiday in London,and they later
married.Both Roberts and Kramer were leaders of the Vorticist movement.
Everyone expected Jacob would stay in London,but after a while he went
back to Leeds,where he always felt at home. His father was ill and died in
1916,and he felt obliged to look after his family.He made friends with
people from all walks of life,and helped to found the Yorkshire Luncheon
Group,where journalists,doctors,surgeons,authors,musicians,and actors,and
many famous people,who were passing through the city all used to come
together.He lived a very Bohemian type of life.
However life for an
aspiring artist was not easy,and he found it very hard to make a living and
was always short of money.He earned his living by painting portraits, often
of famous people,sometimes of people he happened to know,but they were
invariably honest portraits,and gave a sincere picture of the person below
the surface.He was Jewish and his art shows his belief in Jewish values.He
went back to London again, but eventually settled down in Leeds and stayed
He went back to Leeds School of Art to teach,where they were very glad to
have him.He taught part time,so that he had plenty of time for his
painting.He continued to teach there for many years,and had a big influence
on their students.As he grew older he started to drink heavily and this
caused his painting to deteriorate,and made it more difficult for him to
make a living.He died in London in 1962.In 1968, after his death, Leeds
College of Art branch became renamed The Jacob Kramer College of Art.
In 1960 there was a retrospective exhibition of his art at Leeds City
Art Gallery.This was the first big exhibition of his work in Leeds,and it
was too late for him to benefit from it,as he died soon after.
In 1984 The Ben Uri Gallery,London, held an exhibition "Jacob Kramer
Reassessed" together with the Leeds City Art Gallery, and also Bournemouth
and Hull Art galleries,in turn, showed the exhibition for a few months.
In 1992 there was a centenary exhibition of his art at the University
In 2003 The Ben Uri Gallery,which is now the Jewish Museum of
Art,London.held an exhibition "The tortoise and The Hare"(in cooperation
with the William Roberts Society) bringing together the works of William
Roberts and Jacob Kramer.This was held first at the University
Gallery,Leeds,and then at the Ben Uri Gallery,Jewish Museum of Art, London.