Frequently visited the writer Gilbert Cannan at Cholesbury Mill near Chesham
9th December 1891
23rd June 1939
Born at Spitalfields to Jewish immigrants from Poland, Mark Gertler studied art at Regent Street Polytechnic until poverty compelled him to accept an apprenticeship with a stained glass maker. Subsequently he received financial support from an aid society to study from 1908-1912 at the Slade School of Art, where his fellow students included David Bomberg, Paul Nash, Stanley Spencer, Charles Nevinson and Dora Carrington, all to become famous names. Gertler was variously influenced by Cézanne, Renoir and Matisse.
The writer Gilbert Cannan entertained Mark Gertler, Katherine Mansfield and D H Lawrence among others to a famous 1914 Christmas party at Cholesbury Mill in Cholesbury near Chesham and between 1914 and 1916 Gertler became a frequent visitor. Gertler used Cannan’s shed as a studio and his painting of Gilbert Cannan at his Mill now hangs in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. In 1916 Cannan published a fictionalised biography of Gertler entitled Mendel. D H Lawrence featured Gertler as the sculptor Loerke in Women in Love and he also appears as Gombauld in Aldous Huxley’s Crome Yellow.
Gertler was also a frequent guest of Lady Ottoline Morrell at Garsington Manor near Oxford, whose circle overlapped with the Bloomsbury Group. His paintings were collected by Ottoline and by Eddie Marsh, an art patron and private secretary to Winston Churchill. Gertler’s 1916 anti-militarist painting The Merry-go-round now hangs at Tate Britain.
In 1914-15 Gertler pursued a frustrating love affair at the Mill and elsewhere with Dora Carrington, who led him on but eventually left him to live with Lytton Strachey of Eminent Victorians fame. Their relationship is the subject of the 1995 film Carrington. After Strachey’s death in 1932 Carrington committed suicide.
Suffering from tuberculosis, Gertler stayed in sanatoria in London and at Mundesley in Norfolk on several occasions in the 1920s, when his artistic career failed to live up to its early promise and he taught part-time at Westminster School of Art. Suffering from depression variously ascribed to poor health and to the spread of Fascism, Gertler committed suicide in 1939 at his studio in Hampstead, where a blue plaque marks his memory.
Mark Gertler by Sarah MacDougall, published by John Murray 2002, ISBN 0-7195-5799-2
Cholesbury Mill is not open to the public but is easily seen from the Chesham/Hawridge/Cholesbury road near the Full Moon pub.
The Chilterns Country Iron Age Fort Walk starts at the Full Moon pub in Cholesbury and goes past the Mill.
The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
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