Ben Uri collection

Portrait of Arnold Wesker

Artist information

Name Eva Aldbrook (1925-)

Other name Mehl, Melova, Urbach

Born Hamburg, Germany

Find more work in the collection by this artist

Painter, illustrator and costume designer Eva Aldbrook was born Eva Mehl in Hamburg, Germany and immigrated to the UK with her family in 1938. She attended Bunce Court - a progressive boarding school in Kent for Jewish refugee children - for one year, meeting there her future husband Alexander Urbach (afterwards Aldbrook), a Viennese refugee, whom she married seven years later. After training as a classical dancer (taking the name Eva Melova), she studied fashion and costume design under Muriel Pemberton at St. Martin's School of Art, becoming a highly successful fashion illustrator in the 1950s and 1960s, celebrated for her elegant, confident designs with commissions from fashion house Dior and publications including British Vogue, The Evening Standard and The Sunday Times. In later years she turned to portraiture and landscapes of the Tuscan countryside, where she spent some years running an olive farm with her husband, later returning to England.

Object Details

Date c. 1950s

Object type drawing

Medium pastel

Materials and techniques pastel on paper (medium) drawing (technique) paper (support)

Framed 62.9 x 53.9 x 1.3 cm

Acquisition Presented by the artist, 2018

Accession number 2018-03

Display status not on display

Aldbrook’s pastel portrait of the playwright Arnold Wesker (1932-2016) as a young man captures his early radicalism. Born to Eastern European-Jewish immigrant parents in London’s East End, Wesker’s early work experience included spells as a kitchen porter and pastry cook before he was conscripted into the Royal Air Force in 1950. His works as a dramatist include a trilogy exploring his Jewish origins, including 'Chicken Soup with Barley' (1958) and 'Roots' (1959), and he became celebrated as one of the ‘Angry Young Men’ playwrights in the 1950s, eventually completing 50 plays, as well as works of fiction and non-fiction. He was knighted in 2006.


east end | portrait

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


View bigger image