Jankel Adler was born in Poland and began his artistic career as an engraver with his uncle in Belgrade in 1912. He studied at the college of arts and crafts in Barmen, Germany in 1914. Picasso and Legér influenced Adler, and he regularly experimented with materials in his work, often with abstract depictions of Jewish motifs.
As a modern artist, leftist activist and a Jew, Adler faced persecution by the Nazis after they took power in Germany in 1933. That same year, the Nazis displayed his paintings at the Kunsthalle Mannheim as examples of degenerate art. During World War II, he lived in exile and volunteered in the Polish army.