Ivor Weiss was born in Stepney in the East End of London in 1919. His parents were Romanian Jewish immigrants, his father being a successful furrier. His studies at the Northampton Road Polytechnic, London, were cut short by the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1939 he was enlisted into the Signal Corps. He then spent the majority of the war with the British Eighth Army in North Africa and Malta. During that period he still managed to study art in Egypt and at the Malta School of Art, Valetta, where he gained First Prize for figure drawing.
In 1946, he was demobbed, and enrolled at The Heatherley’s School of Fine Art in Chelsea, London, where he gained a diploma in painting. He then moved on to St Martin’s College of Art where he studied painting and art history. It was at St Martin’s that he met his future wife, Joan Dare, a fellow student. In 1950 after graduating they left for Alabama in America, where they set up an art school, hoping for a better future. To supplement their income they undertook commissions from commercial clients to design and execute large murals and mosaics. They also exhibited together and Joan won a number of awards for her botanical drawings. In 1955, for various reasons, they decided to return to England with their two sons, Mark and Julian. Upon his return to England, Weiss designed glass windows for the Stock Exchange in Johannesburg, South Africa and a mosaic for Michelson Ltd Diagnostic in Maidstone. Then he took a post as an art teacher at Lancing College, near Brighton. However after just six months he and his family decided to move to Brightlingsea, a small seaside town in Essex, where he taught art at the local High School. In 1958 they had their third child, Debra.
In the 1960s Weiss’s work, as an artist who had reached maturity, came to the attention of Jacques O’Hana, whose Mayfair Gallery in Carlos Place, adjacent to the Connaught Hotel, was one of the most prestigious of its day in London. There he exhibited a number of times. He also exhibited in Cambridge, Harlow and at the Ben Uri Gallery in London. In 1965 he and his wife purchased a large house in Colchester, Essex, where they opened their first gallery as fine art dealers and restorers. After Weiss suffered a series of heart attacks, his eldest son, Mark, took on the family business and Ivor was able to spend more time painting both at home and on holiday in Italy, until he died at the age of 67.
Ivor Weiss was a member of Colchester Art Society in the 1950s and for a second period from 1970 to 1985.
Ivor Weiss’s talent for drawing was apparent from an early age and encouraged by his parents. But it was perhaps his time at the Heatherley’s School of Art and its long tradition of figurative art which had the greatest impact on his art. Stylistically Weiss’s paintings provide an evident love for the feel and texture of the paint itself. The black lines, which form a structure to contain the paint, have soft contours softened by square brush strokes. Line and colour merge together with dramatic effects.
Thematically during the 1960s Weiss’s work reflected his love for the Colne Estuary landscapes and its people, as well as his love for Tuscany, where he purchased a property. Towards the end of his life he became inspired by Judaic scenes probably influenced by Mark Gertler (1891-1939). A long struggle from the age of 49 against coronary disease brought back memories of his youth, memories of Jewish rituals and traditions. These scenes, which express a need for an identity, convey a certain strength of faith.
Weiss’s paintings of Jewish ritual often show the importance of family and communal ties. They tend to show characters who, although grouped in various social acts such as eating and drinking, often appear isolated, their eyes having disappeared into the black lines – a metaphor for avoidance of eye contact. There is an evident feeling of distance and sadness in his work of that period. Weiss had a solo exhibition at the Minories entitled Rabbi and Ritual in 1971. The Albemarle Gallery, in the West End of London, organised a posthumous exhibition of his work in 2005, accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue.
Montgomery Museum of Fine Art, Alabama, USA, 1952, 1962, 1963
King Street Gallery, Cambridge, 1961
O’ Hana Gallery, London, 1963, 1965, 1968
Quinlan Art Gallery, Atlanta, USA, 1966
Southwest Georgia Art Association, USA, 1967
The Minories, Colchester, Rabbi and Ritual, 1971
Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead (British Arts Council Exhibition), 1972
Playhouse Gallery, Harlow, 1975
Digby Gallery, Colchester, 1978
Ben Uri Gallery, London (Retrospective Exhibition), 1980
Ben Uri Gallery, London
Birmingham Museum, Alabama, USA
Colchester Art Society at the Minories, Colchester
The Contemporary Portrait Society, London
Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts (Mofa), USA
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, USA
King Street Gallery, London
O’ Hana Gallery, London
Painters in East Anglia, London
The Royal Academy, Summer Exhibitions
The Royal Society of British Artists, Mall Galleries
Vonda Gallery, London
The Weiss Gallery, Colchester
White Chappel Art Gallery, London
Works in Public Collections
Cambridge University, UK
Montgomery Museum of Fine Art, Alabama, USA
Works in Private Collections
England, Germany, Holland, Italy, New Zealand and USA
BUCKMAN, David, Dictionary of artists in Britain since 1945, Art Dictionaries Ltd, Bristol, 1998, p. 1258
WEISS, Julian and Debra, Memories of a Jewish artist, Albemarle Gallery, 2005