Leslie Marr on the Formation of the Borough Group / by Theresa Kneppers

The Borough originated in 1946. At first it had no constitution, and no elected officers, and consisted of four of David Bomberg’s original students, who banded together with the intention of exhibiting, and also promoting Bomberg’s work. Dorothy Mead has said, “The Borough Group started in 1946.. to further the aims of David Bomberg and to establish his students as professional painters”, and Cliff Holden has written, “in 1946, under Bomberg’s guidance, a few of us founded the Borough Group. In the beginning it was composed of six students’

(In the beginning it was composed of only four students, Cliff Holden, Dorothy Mead, Edna Mann, and Peter Richmond. A year later Lilian Bomberg and Christine Kamienieska joined, bringing the number up to six.) Holden has claimed ot have been the first president, and although Lilian Bomberg denied this, pointing out that the first gropu had no elected officers, the following statement from Holden would seem to confirm that this was so, ‘Because I was most active in conceiving and fostering the group, Bomberg proposed that I should be first President..’

After the Everyman exhibition Bomberg indicated that the group must now be put on a proper footing with a constitution drawn up, officers appointed, and new members elected. He called a meeting in February 1948 and announced he would assume the presidency and would include his own work in future exhibitions. Cliff Holden writes, ‘At this meeting in 1948, which was chaired by Bomberg, there was a disagreement about the direction the Borough Group should take. Some of us objected to Bomberg bringing in his family, and people that even he thought amateurs. I was certainly supported in my position in this issue by Dorothy Mead. I believe that Peter Richmond agreed with us but he was perhaps less inclined to take a firm stand. However Bomberg took the initiative, and so the group was enlarged.’

Thus the elected members of the now formally constituted group, were as follows: David Bomberg as President, the original members, Lilian Bomberg, Mead, Mann, Holden, Richmond and new members, Dinora Mendelson, myself, Len and Dorothy Missen.

At the end of the meeting Bomberg said that this was a new start, and now that the group was properly constituted, all of the ten elected members were to be designated Founder Members. Bomberg added that he hoped that from this beginning the group would attract more members and grow, but in the event, only one more member, Dennis Creffield, was elected before the group was dissolved in early 1950.

Ever since this meeting a disagreement has existed between Holden and myself over the question of founder members… It appears that Holden considers only the original four students to be the ‘real’ Borough Group, and, very clearly, from many references in his subsequent writing, ..resented ‘the family’.

However – regarding ‘founder membership’ – a manuscript in Bomberg’s hand in the Tate Archive, a press release for the opening of the Bookwork Gallery exhibition, written in the third person, states “Mr Bomberg, the founder of the group, will attend.. to give representatives of the press..” So it would seem that we were all co-founders under Bomberg’s leadership.

Leslie Marr, The Borugh History