The canal lock signed, inscribed and dated 'David Bomberg/The Borough Group 1951' (verso) oil on board 51 x 61.2 cm. (20 x 24 in.)
By the time the Second World War broke out, Bomberg had abandoned painting altogether. He resumed it during the long years of conflict, tackling the theme of a Bomb Store and then deciding to explore the devastation inflicted on London by the Blitz. Hence his readiness, in the post-war world, to renew his relationship with the natural world. Committed to pursuing the life animating a landscape, Bomberg described this innate energy as "the spirit in the mass." And in his freely handled painting of a canal he concentrates on the elemental interaction between sky, foliage and water. The diagonal thrust of the lock gates gives this work much of its arresting drama. But Bomberg is now fascinated above all by the irrepressible vitality of nature.
Back in 1919, he had painted several images inspired by war-time memories of a Flanders canal bank and a similar scene in London. Barges appeared in several of these canvases, and sometimes dominated everything around them. Yet now, human figures are impossible to detect. The dark, impulsive mass on the left side of this painting is being swept away, so that Bomberg can fulfil his ambition to charge the rest of the canvas with the forcefulness of growth. The canal itself seems about to be overwhelmed by the burgeoning energy of this fertile world. Bomberg's uninhibited brushmarks rejoice in its abundance.
No wonder he set off with Lilian, in the spring of 1954, to revisit Ronda. Bomberg's last years were spent there, concentrating above all on the dynamism surging through the wild terrain in his beloved Andalucia.
We are grateful to the late Dinora Davies-Rees for confirming the authenticity of this painting.