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‘In the Synagogue’ was painted in 1906, after Alfred returned from Poland. A Jewish
man is shown in a prayer shawl, with his head covered, sitting alone at the front of a
synagogue (a building for Jewish worship and instruction). Figures are seated in the
background, reading, resting, thinking and praying. The main focus, however, is on
the person in the foreground, with his pose of great contemplation. This painting
combines Alfred’s artistic skill in creating large compositions, incorporating numerous
sitters, with a deep understanding of the spiritual, ceremonial and practical aspects
of Jewish worship present in synagogue settings. There is no obvious indication of the location of this synagogue, but it is likely that
the sitters were drawn from the East End community that Alfred was now familiar
with. He was used to paying poor people to sit as subjects for his group studies, a
format he had adopted early on, for instance having received in 1896 a silver medal
from the Royal Academy for his ‘drawing of a statue or group’.
‘In the Synagogue’ brings together Alfred’s favoured format (at this stage of his
career) with a deep understanding of the Jewish faith, and is regarded by many as
capturing the essence of this particular aspect of the faith. Painted with
predominantly dark tones, the picture reflects his commitment to the style of
Rembrandt, but Alfred’s artistic practice would evolve into a distinctly modernist
style, with him becoming known as the ‘King of Colour’. A meticulous and compassionate study of the meditative state of prayer, capturing the intense inner spirituality of Jewish religious observance.

Details

  • Title: In the Synagogue
  • Creator: Alfred Wolmark
  • Date Created: 1906
  • Physical Dimensions: 106.5 x 88 cm
  • Type: painting
  • Rights: © Alfred Wolmark estate
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Art Form: painting
  • Support: canvas

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