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Mark Gertler (1891-1939)
The Irish Yew, 1921


The Irish Yew (Garsington, Oxfordshire), which was exhibited in Gertler’s first one-man show at the Goupil Gallery in 1922, was painted at Garsington Manor, the Oxfordshire home of the Morrells. Gertler first met Lady Ottoline Morrell, wife of the Liberal MP Philip Morrell and half-sister to the Duke of Portland, in the spring of 1914, through the playwright and novelist, Gilbert Cannan. She became one of his chief patrons and an important supporter of his work.

In June 1915 the Morrells moved to Garsington Manor, their new country estate in the village of Garsington, five miles from Oxford. They renovated the seventeenth century property and, with the help of architect Philip Tilden, created the gardens which were influenced by the couple’s travels in Italy. After Gertler’s first visit in September 1915, he became one of Lady Ottoline’s most regular guests.

Sarah MacDougall comments, ‘In 1920 he [Gertler] admitted that Garsington had become “a sort of home to me now” […]. “You are so one of us – one of the family”, Ottoline would write, “Come to your home at G [arsington] whenever you like”. He felt a special affinity for the Italianate gardens, especially the main lawn behind the house with a rectangular pond edged with statues, where they bathed on summer afternoons. He recorded his love affair with the house and gardens in a series of paintings that spanned the many years of hospitality he enjoyed there and was broken-hearted when the Morrells eventually sold Garsington in 1928’ (see Mark Gertler, London, 2002, p. 118).

Other paintings by Mark Gertler which depict Garsington include: The Pond, 1916 (Leeds City Art Gallery); The Pigeon House, Garsington, 1920 (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge); The Manor House, Garsington, 1921 (private collection); Garden Statues and Pool, Garsington, circa 1923 (private collection); and The Pond, Garsington, 1923 (Victoria and Albert Museum, London).


Image: Out of Copyright


oil on canvas


31 x 25 in (78.7 x 63.5 cm)


Mr and Mrs S. Samuels.

Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, London, 19 July 1967, lot 109, as ‘Landscape with Cypress’, where purchased by Dunphy.

Anonymous sale; Christie’s, London, 19 July 1968, lot 109, as ‘The Yew’.

Anonymous sale; Christie’s, London, 16 November 2007, lot 25, as ‘The Yew at Garsington’, where purchased.


London, Goupil Gallery, Mark Gertler, A New Series of Paintings, February 1922, no. 17, as ‘The Irish Yew’.

London, Leicester Galleries, Mark Gertler Memorial Exhibition, May - June 1941, no. 13 as ‘Landscape with Cypress (Garsington) 1921’.

London, Ben Uri Gallery, Paintings and Drawings by Mark Gertler (1892-1939) [sic 1891], November - December 1944, no. 54 as ‘Landscape with Cypress 1921’ (lent by S. Samuels Esq.).

London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Mark Gertler (1891-1939), Memorial Exhibition, June - July 1949, no. 31 as ‘Landscape with Cypress’ (lent by Mr and Mrs S. Samuels).


Collection Catalogue, Jerwood Collection, London 2012 p.31

J. Woodeson, Mark Gertler, Biography of a Painter (1891-1939), London, 1972, p. 374, as ‘Landscape with Cypress – Garsington’.

S. MacDougall, Mark Gertler, London, 2002, p. 118.

Born in London, the youngest child of Jewish immigrants, Gertler's artistic talent was recognised at a young age and he was enrolled for art classes at Regent Street Polytechnic. Although his family's financial circumstances forced himto take a job as an apprentice at a stained glass company, he was able to continue with evening classes at the Polytechnic and in 1908 he won a scholarship that enabled him to enrol at the Slade School of Art. Here he joined an exceptional group of students that included Stanley Spencer, Paul Nash, Edward Wadsworth, Christopher Richard Nevinson and Dora Carrington, with whom he later had a traumatic love affair.

Gertler's early work was predominantly concerned with portraits of his family and Jewish subject matter, painted in a traditional style. He soon, however, began to push the boundaries in his work, both in subject matter and stylistically and painted what is considered to be his masterpiece Merry-Go-Round in 1916. Later, Gertler's work took a gentler turn and he began to concentrate on nudes and still-lifes. In 1920, Gertler was diagnosed with tuberculosis and he began to be dogged by depression, which was partly due to his lack of commercial success. He took his own life in June 1939.