Jules Adler, La Mère, 1899,
Muzeum Narodowe w Poznaniu
Jules Adler (1865-1952) was born into an Alsatian Jewish family at Luxeuil-les-Bains in Franche-Comté. The powerful and singular oeuvre of this painter of the second naturalist generation is little known to the public today, yet one of his pictures, The Strike at Le Creusot (1899), became an iconic image of the workers’ struggle and has been frequently reproduced in history books.
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Featuring 170 paintings, drawings, prints and documents – a third of which have never been shown to the public – this retrospective reveals the originality of his oeuvre in the social and political context of France under the Third Republic. It also explores the role played by his Jewish identity in his perception of the world and his commitments as a man and artist.
At the beginning of his career, Jules Adler, a Dreyfusard and great admirer of Émile Zola, was above all preoccupied by the misery and hardship caused by industrial society. His depictions of the plight of workers (The Providence Blast Furnaces, The Stokers, In the Coalfields) and the urban working classes, particularly in Paris where he lived (The Weary, The Soup Kitchen) soon earned him the epithet of “painter of the humble”.
In doing so, he left us one of the most powerful testimonies to the social struggles and the proletariat in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although he later turned to less radical subjects, his interest in the common people endured in his depictions of rural life, a change of interest that occurred after the trauma of the Great War, during which he was sent to the front as a war artist to sketch and photograph the desolation caused by the conflict. Adler found his subjects all over France, shunning the picturesque to focus on the men, women and children he encountered, ranging from fishermen’s wives at Étaples on the Channel coast, waiting for their husbands to return during a storm, to peasants working in the fields in Franche-Comté. He continued tirelessly in this vein, even sketching his fellow inmates during his internment in 1944 in the hospice in rue Picpus in Paris, transformed into an internment camp for sick and aged Jews awaiting deportation.
Curators : Amélie Lavin and Claire Decomps, with the help of Virginie Michel
Publication in French
Jules Adler, 1865-1952. Peindre sous la Troisième République
240 pages, 24 × 28 cm, 25 € Silvana Editoriale, 2017
On sale at the mahJ bookshop