Jacob Kramer was born in Klincy, in the Ukraine, to an artist father (who trained at the St Petersburg Fine Art Academy) and an opera singer mother. The family emigrated to England in 1900 and settled in Leeds, where Jacob had little choice but to find menial jobs, such as working in a photographers' studio retouching and hand colouring prints.
When at school in Darley St, Kramer was encouraged by his teacher to start evening classes at the Leeds School of Art, where he won the Junior Art scholarship twice during his two year enrolment. It was after this that Kramer begun his first 'real' work, painting a portrait of Weedon Grossmith backstage at the Leeds Grand Theatre. He was invited to London by his patron and visited the studio of the Academician George Clausen whose work he admired. Whilst in London Kramer made sketches of Sir Gerald du Maurier, and of Augustus van Beine, the 'cellist, who died suddenly on the stage at Blackpool a week later.
Kramer then sent his first large work to the New English Art Club, where it attracted the attention and interest of Ambrose McEvoy, R. A., who became his teacher. The picture had created a furore in the club and thatAugustus John was furious at the suggestion made by some adverse critics on the committee that it should be rejected. In defiance, John decided to place it upon a screen by itself.
Kramer then became a student at the Slade school and held his first exhibition in Bradford in 1915. Hr returned to Leeds to work and had his first retrospective exhibition at Leeds City Art gallery in 1960. In the words of the catalogue of the 1984 Ben Uri Gallery exhibition of his work, He bought a robust energy, largeness and simplicity of design to an art world of politeness and good taste . . . a quality that remains defiantly Eastern European.
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