City lane, Josl Bergner
  • Artist
    Josl Bergner
  • Born
    1920
  • Title
    City lane
  • Date of Production
    c.1940
  • Medium
    oil on composition board
  • Dimensions
    913 x 675 mm
  • Credit Details
    Purchased with funds from the Colin Hicks Caldwell Bequest Fund, 1996

Josl Bergner

City lane

Arriving in Melbourne from Warsaw in 1937 Bergner had already been exposed to the social and political conditions that had nurtured European modernism. A fiery social realist and a member of the Melbourne Angry Penguins group that included Tucker, Nolan, Vasilieff, Perceval and Boyd, Bergner brought to this group direct experience of hardship and the feelings of being an outsider. For most of the other artists of the time the notion that raw feelings could be expressed through art was difficult to accept.

In City lane, a lone figure weighed down by a sense of despair trudges across a laneway with his hands clasped before him. With its exaggerated tonal range, the dark, menacing buildings and the figure partially lit by the angry sky convey the emptiness as well as the pain and suffering that accompanies social deprivation. This powerful painting of a Melbourne Street was one of the first in Australian art to confront the poverty and despair that was a reality for so many people during the Great Depression.