Ben Uri collection

Untitled (Vorticist Figures)

Artist information

Name Clare Winsten (1892-1989)

Other name Clara Birnberg, C B Winsten

Born Romania

Died London, England

Find more work in the collection by this artist

Born to Galician Jewish parents in Romania in 1892, Clare Winsten (née Clara Birnberg) immigrated to England with her family c. 1902. A member of the Women’s Freedom League, she was also the only girl among the 'Whitechapel Boys', a group of artists and poets linked through the East End Jewish community centred around Whitechapel and Stepney. The latter included her future husband Stephen Winsten (formerly Samuel ‘Simy’ Weinstein), the poet/publisher John ‘Jimmy’ Rodker, and Joseph Leftwich (who coined the name), as well as the painter/poet Isaac Rosenberg and painters Mark Gertler and David Bomberg, whom she studied alongside at the Slade School of Fine Art. Her work was included in the so-called ‘Jewish Section’ co-curated by Bomberg and Jacob Epstein as part of the Whitechapel Art Gallery’s ‘Twentieth-Century Art: A Review of Modern Movements’ in 1914. Bomberg painted her and she and Rosenberg created reciprocal portraits.

During the First World War, the Winstens, were Pacifists, Conscientious Objectors and members of the 'No Conscription' fellowship. They married in 1916 and in November of the same year, Stephen Winsten undertook the first of three consecutive terms of imprisonment for his beliefs. Postwar both worked on humanitarian causes and became Quaker Humanists. Stephen Winsten published a book of poems ‘Chains’ (1920), for which Clare produced a number of (unpublished) illustrations, based on his prison experience. Clare Winsten's output included drawings, paintings and sculpture including several of George Bernard Shaw, their neighbour at Ayot St Lawrence, Hertfordshire, in the late 1940s, about whom Stephen wrote a number of books.

Winsten’s work is held by the British Museum, the National Portrait Gallery, UCL and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Centre, University of Texas at Austin.

Object Details

Date c.1911

Object type painting

Medium oil on canvas

Materials and techniques oil (medium) canvas (support)

Unframed 45.8 x 81.4 cm

Framed 51 x 87.1 cm

Signed (Lower left): 'CB' [date illegible]

Acquisition presented by Liss Fine Art

Accession number 2008-4

Display status not on display

Although crudely executed, this composition with its bold palette and flattened, pared down figures, undoubtedly dates to Winsten's years at the Slade School of Fine Art (1910-12) and signals her rapid modernist trajectory in this period. The trianglular heads and crossed limbs within a rudimentary hand-drawn grid relate to a more finished work (Liss Fine Art) and suggest that she was working along similar lines to fellow student David Bomberg, who also used the device of figures emerging from a grid several times in contemporaneous works including 'Island of Joy' (c. 1912), 'Vision of Ezekiel' (1912) and, most famously, 'The Mud Bath (1914, Tate). Winsten later abandoned these early experiments but her work continued to move between the figurative and the abstract, though never formally embracing the latter.

Hover mouse cursor over image to zoom (you can also use the mouse wheel).


View bigger image

To license this image contact Bridgeman images

© Clare Winsten estate