Jankel Adler was born into a large Jewish family in Tuszyn, Poland. In 1911, he entered the Barmen School of Arts and Crafts in Dusseldorf, studying under Gustav Wiethuechter. In 1914, he was conscripted into the Russian Army and was soon captured by the Germans. In 1918, released from captivity, he returned to and exhibited in Warsaw. His first commission - a set of frescoes for the Dusseldorf Planetarium - came in 1925. He returned and settled in Dusseldorf after three years of travel in Germany, Mallorca and Spain. He took a teaching post in the Dusseldorf Academy teaching alongside Paul Klee, who was to play a significant part in his development, who had left the Bauhaus in 1929. Labeled a degenerate, he fled to Paris in 1933.
He returned to Warsaw in 1935 for a large retrospective exhibition, which included works recovered from Dusseldorf by the Polish Government. Having returned to France he volunteered for the Polish Army at the outbreak of the Second World War, but released on medical grounds was evacuated to Scotland in 1940. Having settled in Scotland he had an exhibition in Glasgow in 1942.
In 1943 he moved to London where he lived until 1948. During this period he exhibited in the Lefevre Gallery, London and the Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels and had his first American exhibition at the Knoedler Galleries in New York. It was while living and working in London that he was to have a studio in the same building as Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde, in Bedford Gardens. With his experience of Paul Klee and study of Léger and Picasso, he was instrumental in bringing a new language and vision to their work.
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