Mark Gertler was born in London in 1891 into a Jewish-Polish family. Whilst enrolled in evening classes at the Regent Street Polytechnic he was employed in a stained-glass window workshop. Funded by the Jewish Education Aid Society, he was sent to the Slade School of Art between 1908 and 1912 where he met Paul Nash, Stanley Spencer, David Bomberg, Christopher Nevinson and Dora Carrington. He gained a reputation as a particularly talented draughtsman, winning several painting prizes, a two-year Slade scholarship in 1909 and a British Institute Scholarship in 1911. He first exhibited at the Friday Club in 1911, of which Vanessa Bell was secretary, and then had a joint exhibition with John Currie at the Chenil Galleries in 1914. He was elected to the London Group in 1915 and contributed works to their November 1915 exhibition. He painted mainly in London and later, when in poor health as a result of having contracted tuberculosis (diagnosed in 1920), near Oxford. He spent time in Banchory Sanatorium near Aberdeen where he painted Trees at Sanatorium. He had difficulty selling his work in the 1930s but had a few loyal supporters, including J.B. Priestley and Aldous Huxley, and taught part-time at Westminster College to supplement his earnings. He made frequent trips to Paris. Weighed down by the burden of financial and emotional problems he fell victim to depression during the 1930s and finally committed suicide.
Gertler's highly naturalistic early paintings focus on his family and Jewish life. He was a convinced pacifist and a conscientious objector during World War I. He painted a number of other famous pictures evoking World War I. Influenced after 1917 by Post-Impressionism, he exhibited frequently during 1920s, including annual exhibitions at Goupil Gallery from 1920s. Towards the end of his life, he painted nudes in the neo-classical manner and still-lifes of a Cubist nature.