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Clara Klinghoffer

(Szczerzec [Shchyrets] 1900-1972 New York)

Girl with Plaits

oil on canvas

signed lower right ‘C. KLINGHOFFER’ and dated lower right ‘Capri. Sep. 32’

59 x 49cm.


London, Redfern Gallery, 27 Old Bond Street, The New English Art Club Winter Exhibition, 1933, no. 348.


C. Baile de Laperriere, The New English Art Club Exhibitors, 1886-2001, vol. II, E.-K., Hillmarton Manor Press, p.347.

This tender portrait of a young girl with plaits was painted by the Slade-trained artist, Clara Klinghoffer on the island of Capri in 1932. At the time, she was known for painting portraits of ‘local types’ and given that she exhibited this painting the following year with the New English Art Club without a given identity for the sitter, we can assume she was indeed a young girl that Klinghoffer encountered on her travels in Capri, and was moved to paint. It’s possible she was reminded of her sister Hilda, who she had painted as a young adolescent, only the year before in 1931, nude and with plaits as her defining feature.

Appropriately, the rust pigment in the girl's dress is from Pozzuoli, a Renaissance volcano just outside Naples and near Capri. Klinghoffer was travelling there with her husband, and two young children, and although she was living in the Netherlands at the time, she was still regularly exhibiting in London, at the Redfern Gallery, the New English Art Club, and the Royal Academy.

When Klinghoffer was still studying at the Slade in 1920, she was hailed as ‘the girl who draws like Raphael’, and immediately found grace and favour as a portraitist, with her first ‘One-Man show’ at the prestigious Hampstead Art Gallery, in May of that year, to rave reviews. The Jewish Chronicle noted that ‘Clara Klinghoffer… has clearly proved to be a truly great artist. Her drawings are very beautiful and quite remarkable for an artist scarcely out of her teens. [She] has been influenced by the Great Masters Raphael and Leonardo… yet her outlook is entirely Modern…’ 

Nonetheless, there was a time in the ‘30s when she fell from favour, refusing to move away from her figurative roots, and it was not until later in life, re-established and re-located in New York as a result of WWII, that she continued to find success as a portraitist.

Klinghoffer can loosely be referred to as a ‘Whitechapel Girl’, as a Jewish émigré in East London who knew and associated with the ‘Whitechapel Boys’, whose members included Mark Gertler, David Bomberg and Clara Bimberg, among others. As a young girl, Clara was spotted sketching customers in a corner of her parents’ milliners shop, and they were encouraged to send her to study at the Sir John Cass College of Art, before winning scholarships to the Central School of Arts and Crafts, and finally the Slade from 1919-1921.

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