The Pond

Mark Gertler (1891 - 1939)

Oil on canvas

August - September 1917
  • About the work
    Country: UK
    City: London
    Place: HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road
    The branch of a tree extends like an arm pointing to the silvery pond in the mid-distance, amid a patchwork of overlaid paint strokes. Mark Gertler uses an abstract arrangement of colours to capture the lush greenness of this quiet spot, emulating the dappled effect of light and colour reflecting on the still surface of the pond.

    Gertler briefly abandoned painting for sculpture in 1916. Eventually returning to painting, works such as The Pond reveal the impact of his work with three-dimensional form. Gertler creates a palpable sense of depth by building up his composition with blocks of colour, creating the impression of standing beneath the tree, overlooking the scene.

    At the outbreak of the First World War, Gertler was one of many artists and writers associated with the Bloomsbury Circle invited to Garsington Manor, the Oxfordshire residence of renowned literary and artistic patron Lady Ottoline Morrell (1873–1938). By 1916, Gertler had declared himself as a conscientious objector and he spent the rest of the war working on the farm at Garsington. His painting A Merry-Go-Round (1916), expressed his repulsion at the futility of the conflict with its chilling vision of mannequins riding a carousel. The Pond (1917) almost certainly was based on the fish pond at Garsington. The same subject features in the artist’s more geometric composition, The Pool at Garsington (1918), also in the Government Art Collection.
  • About the artist
    Born in Spitalfields, in London’s East End, Mark Gertler was the son of Polish Jewish immigrants. Encouraged by his parents, he attended art classes at the Regent Street Polytechnic and in 1908, won a national art competition. His success attracted financial assistance that allowed him to enter the Slade School of Art where he studied from1908 to 1912. There he befriended artists including Dora Carrington, with whom he had a brief affair. Gertler exhibited in London up to the 1930s, and acquired several aristocratic patrons most notably, Lady Ottoline Morrell. Suffering from depression for much of his life, Gertler committed suicide in his studio in Highgate, London in 1939 and was buried at the Willesden Jewish Cemetery.
  • Explore
    Materials & Techniques
    canvas, oil, oil painting
  • Details
    The Pond
    August - September 1917
    Oil on canvas
    height: 51.20 cm, width: 61.20 cm
    Purchased from Leicester Galleries, June 1963
    verso: THE POND = / Mark Gertler / Aug - Sep, 1917.
    Collection of Bernard Wilson; from whom purchased by Leicester Galleries, London; from whom purchased by the Ministry of Works in July 1963
    GAC number