THE RESCUE OF MOSES
Artist's label verso
Oil on canvas laid on board
59 x 37.5 cm / 78.5 x 56.5 cm [Framed]
The Nonesuch Gallery is delighted to present a hitherto unrecorded work by the artist Morris Goldstein and are grateful to Mr. Raymond Francis, the artist's son, for confirming the authenticity of the work. This work will be included in the catalogue of the artist's works in the upcoming reprint of Morris Goldstein: The Lost Whitechapel Boy. See the video above for a trailer of the publication of Morris Goldstein: The Lost Whitechapel Boy.
Morris Kugal was born in Poland but emigrated with his family in 1898 to Whitechapel in East London. The family changed their name to Goldstein upon arrival in Britain. In his late childhood he studied briefly at the Stepney Green Art School; but family circumstances demanded he learn a trade and, together with his neighbour Isaac Rosenberg (later the renowned poet), he took up an apprenticeship in marquetry. Despite their financial background presenting an obstacle, Goldstein and Rosenberg attended evening classes at Bolt Court. Here Goldstein won a gold medal and was a contemporary of Paul Nash, among others.
Goldstein won a scholarship to the Slade in 1913 (having applied unsuccessfuly to the Jewish Education Aid Society several times beforehand) attending alongside Bernard Meninsky, David Bomberg and the slightly older Gertler. Together formed part of what are now known as the ‘Whitechapel Boys’: a loosely-knit group united by their Jewish heritage and geographic situation at the time. The JEAS (Jewish Education Aid Society) gave substantial financial assistance to the majority of this group, though they later came to resent the avant-garde output of their scholars. Goldstein was forced to finance himself in his first term at the School as he was not accepted for a loan from them until the beginning of his second. Rather sadly, as in the cases of Gertler, Meninsky and Bomberg, Goldstein was pursued by the society for a return on the loan much later in his life, and was not able to pay back the accrued interest and significant original sum (1).
Goldstein was among one of the most prominent generations of Slade Students in the 20th century: one which, apart from the Whitechapel boys, included C.R.W. Nevinson, Paul Nash, Stanley Spencer, Dora Carrington, Winifred Knights, William Roberts, Edith Lawrence, Edward Wadsworth and numerous other accomplished artists who went on to success. Richard Cork writes of the influence of the Slade on Goldstein, "Penetrating draughtsmanship lay at the centre of the discplined teaching Goldstein received there..." (2) and this was evidenced by his winning a prize for the category of 'Head Painting' (in the same year that Dora Carrington was to win the first prize for figure painting). His drawing teacher at the Slade, Frederick Brown R.A., was hugely impressed by Goldstein and wrote to the Jewish Education Aid Society recommending they provide further funds to enable his studies to continue ("His original work is excellent, better than any of those hitherto recommended by one to your society" (3)).
Tragically, Goldstein’s father died during his time at the Slade, forcing him to leave his studies prematurely. He exhibited 5 works at the landmark 1914 Whitechapel Show, where he was grouped together with other young Jewish artists in the 'Small Gallery', including Bomberg, Gertler and Modigliani; but his early exit from the limelight this precocious group of creatives were to enjoy has since led to scholarly neglect of his work. Of his exhibited works which have been recorded, the theme of Jewish life was clearly a strong inspiration in terms of subject matter for Goldstein; though only one was an explicitly Jewish subject in the Whitechapel exhibition of 1914 (4).
During the Great War, Goldstein shared a studio with Mark Gertler (5) - this was a time of intense inner struggle for Gertler and led to some of his greatest works - and continued to exhibit (he was exempt from fighting as he was not a 'naturalised' British citizen). His works at the New English Art Club show of 1914 indicate his moving towards conspicuously Jewish subjects, in tandem with Gertler. His 1915 painting, The Tempest, is similar in composition and subject to the present work, and was reproduced in Colour magazine that year. The present work, more so than any other recorded work by Goldstein, can be placed alongside Mark Gertler's works from this mid-war period: the Quattrocento-inspired strongly delineated figures and perspectival simplicity are emblematic of this period for Gertler. One can only wonder at what might have happened had Goldstein continued to work alongside him and in the orbit of this prodigious enclave of Slade artists, broadly known as the 'Crisis of Brilliance' generation.
After his studies ended he began teaching and became Art Master at the Toynbee Art Club, a hub of the East End Jewish community, situated in Commercial Street. Goldstein continued to contribute to the Whitechapel Gallery's annual 'East End Exhibition' until 1960. Records attest to his public-spiritedness and service for his synagogue.
Goldstein's son, Raymond Francis, has recently contributed to and published an excellent account of his father's artistic life (6).
The present work's subject is taken from the book of Exodus II.5-10:
"Now Pharaoh's daughter went down to bathe in the river, while her maids walked along the riverside. Among the reeds she noticed the basket, and she sent her maid to fetch it. She opened it and saw the child: the baby was crying. Feeling sorry for it, she said, 'This is one of the little Hebrews"... When the child grew up she brought him to Pharaoh's daughter who treated him like a son; she named him Moses 'because', she said, 'I drew him out of the water'. (NJB)
(1) London, Modernism and 1914 (ed. Michael J.K. Walsh) - Cambridge (2010) - pp.127-128
(2) Morris Goldstein: The Lost Whitechapel Boy (ed. Raymond Francis) - Think Digital (2020) - p.37
(3) "Morris Goldstein." In Database of Modern Exhibitions (DoME). European Paintings and Drawings 1905-1915. Last modified Aug 17, 2019.
(4) Reproduced in Francis, ibid. p.110
(5) Joseph Cohen - Journey to the Trenches: The Life of Isaac Rosenberg 1890-1918 - New York (1975) - p.204, Note 34
(6) Francis - ibid.