From Alice Springs to Kimberley (1937)

Born Vienna, Austria 1920, arrived Australia 1937, migrated to Israel 1950


Yosl Bergner arrived in Australia from Warsaw in 1937 at the insistence of his father Melech Ravitch, one of the Yiddish-speaking world’s best-known poets, who feared for the family’s safety as Jews in Europe. Bergner’s knowledge and experience of European artists Honoré Daumier, Paul Cézanne and Gustave Courbet had a strong influence on his earlier work.

Studying at the National Gallery School in Melbourne (1939), Bergner associated with artists who shared his social and political ideals, including Noel Counihan and Vic O’Connor. His social realist paintings depicting the victims of war and power were first exhibited at University of Melbourne in 1939 in an exhibition which also included works by Arthur Boyd and Noel Counihan.

From Alice Springs to Kimberley (1937) is part of the Kimberley Fantasy series of paintings Bergner created in the 1990s which reference the story of his father’s journey to the Northern Territory in 1933 in search of a possible relocation site for the Jewish community in Europe who were being persecuted under the reign of Hitler.

In 1948 Bergner left Australia for Paris, to migrate to the newly created state of Israel in 1950.

Bergner’s work was the subject of a major retrospective at the Tel Aviv Museum, Israel, in 2000. In Australia his work was included in the survey show The Heroic Years of Australian Painting 1940–65, Melbourne Town Hall (1977) and touring to regional galleries, and subsequently in numerous exhibitions including at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne.