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Jankel Adler: Sabbat


man lying on sofa, woman at the table with a turned-over candlestick, a half loaf of challah and an empty wine glass

© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

With large, poetic, harp-like characters
he consecrates every image he paints
to his young God

wrote Else Lasker-Schüler about her friend Jankel Adler. And, indeed, many of Adler’s works contain Jewish themes, individual Yiddish words, as well as allusions to Jewish customs.

This is also true of the painting Sabbath, which provides a glimpse of a parlor scene. A man is reclining on a sofa, his prayer book in hand and a prayer scarf next to him. His wife is seated on a chair with a bowl of sunflower seeds in her lap. The table is set with objects and dishes for Shabbat, the weekly day of rest, but the candles have burnt low, half the challah bread has been eaten, and the wineglass is empty. The artist has not depicted the festive, pleasurable moment of welcoming Shabbat that is familiar from many other pictures. He has chosen to show the hours afterward.

Jankel Adler left Lodz in 1913 to attend the School of Applied Arts in Barmen (present-day Wuppertal). In the 1920s he joined the activities of left-wing avant-garde groups in Düsseldorf, Cologne, and Berlin. His intense engagement with wall painting during this period influenced his painting technique, which involved scratching patterns into a mixture of oil paint and sand.

Sabbath was done in 1927/28 during the artist’s brief period of success in Düsseldorf. At that time he was at the center of a small Jewish art community that probably included Düsseldorf lawyer Joseph Gottlieb. It was from Gottlieb’s heirs that the Jewish Museum acquired the painting.

Object Details:
Sabbath
Jankel Adler (1895–1949)
1927/1928
Mixed media, oil, sand on canvas
120 x 110 cm

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