Henryk Gotlib

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Henryk Gotlib

by Henryk Gotlib
painted plaster, circa 1942
24 3/4 in. x 13 in. (630 mm x 330 mm) overall
Given by Anne Dockery with support from the artist's widow, Janet Gotlib, 2003
Primary Collection
NPG 6642

On display in Room 27 on Floor 2 at the National Portrait Gallery

Sitterback to top

  • Henryk Gotlib (1890-1966), Painter. Sitter in 2 portraits, Artist or producer of 67 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Henryk Gotlib (1890-1966), Painter. Artist or producer of 67 portraits, Sitter in 2 portraits.

This portraitback to top

Gotlib was a painter rather than a sculptor, and this work itself became the subject of a painting. Its vigorous, manipulated texture and vibrant colours are indicative of its European Expressionist origins, referring back to the work of, among others, Josef Barlach, Kathe Kollwitz and Max Beckmann, and forward to that of Georg Baselitz.

Linked publicationsback to top

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  • Rideal, Liz, Insights: Self-portraits, 2005, p. 85 Read entry

    Born in Cracow, Gotlib came to England in 1939, where he joined the London Group. He considered himself a painter and used his plaster self-portrait as the subject for a painting, transforming it into an alter-ego and reinterpreting its form in another medium. Here the physical, solid presence of the sculpture masquerades as an abstract self. His use of paint on the highly absorbent plaster seems to emphasise his physical involvement in the work.

Events of 1942back to top

Current affairs

The Oxford Committee for Famine Relief is founded in Oxford with the aim of sending food through the Allied blockade of Nazi-Occupied Greece. The organisation continued after the war to relieve suffering as a result of the war in Europe, and eventually to help distressed peoples internationally. It gradually became known as Oxfam, after its telegraph address, and is now one of the largest international development and aid agencies.

Art and science

Desert Island Discs is broadcast for the first time. Each week a famous guest is invited to select which eight pieces of music they would choose to take if they were castaway on an island. The show is still going and is the longest running music programme on radio.
Enid Blyton publishes her first Famous Five children's book: Five On A Treasure Island.


The Allied forces sign the 'Declaration by United Nations', pledging the signatories to fight together until the end of the war and establishing an international organisation with the aim of upholding world peace and security with Sir Gladwyn Jebb as the first Secretary General.
In Berlin, senior Nazis plan the 'Final Solution' to exterminate European Jews, and start building death camps to carry it out.

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