The Camden Town Group only held three exhibitions in their lifetime, but the influence and legacy of these artists lives on. They were passionate painters, dedicated to their craft, and ignited by the changing times of the Edwardian era.
Here’s six quotes from the artists and their peers that bring to life their passion for their art, and support for each other:
The Blue Blouse, Portrait of Elene Zompolides (Detail), Harold Gilman c. 1910
- Artist Harold Gilman was instrumental in rounding up his fellow artists into the Camden Town Group. His friend Louis Fergusson recalled that he was ‘a figure of dignity in snuff-coloured suit and black neckerchief. He impressed you with his transparent earnestness. Painting meant ever so much to him.’
- Gilman formed the Camden Town Group because the New English Art Club had been rejecting his and his friends’ works. The art critic Frank Rutter commented on the rivalry, ‘Gilman was tooth-and-nail against any compromise with the enemy, and was definitely in favour of founding a new exhibition body… Eventually the persistence of Gilman triumphed’ and the Camden Town Group was formed.
- Walter Richard Sickert was something of a raconteur, a cosmopolitan man who originally pursued a career in the theatre, performing under the alias ‘Mr Nemo’. In 1882, he abandoned the stage, enrolled at the Slade School of Fine Art, and became apprentice to James Abbot McNeill Whistler. The American artist advised him to leave the Slade, remarking sarcastically, ‘You’ve lost your money, no need to lose your time as well.’ Sickert went on to gain a reputation as one of the most influential figures in twentieth century British Art.
Portrait of Mrs Mounter (Detail), Harold Gilman c. 1916-17
- Sickert wrote of his friend, the artist Spencer Frederick Gore, ‘He took incessant risks, but he had social and artistic tact to a rare degree’; his short career – he died when only thirty-five of pneumonia – was an ‘astonishing’ one.
- After Charles Ginner contributed to his first London exhibition in 1908, the organiser, Frank Rutter, later recalled: “Several artists were literally attracted by his lavish use of pigment, and, the canvas being still wet, took away samples of his paint in their finger-nails. Some few, however, approached his work with more respect, and I well remember Spencer Gore coming up to me before the Ginners and saying with conviction, ‘This man is a painter.’”
- A small community of artists lived for some time in Letchworth Garden City, including William Ratcliffe and Harold Gilman. Ratcliffe joined the Camden Town Group at Gilman’s suggestion and encouragement. The death of Spencer Gore in 1914 and Gilman five years later affected Ratcliffe profoundly, and he later told the artist William Townsend that ‘he had never painted so happily deprived of their encouragement.’
Camden Town Group: Art for the Edwardian Era is showing until 22 January 2017 in the Upper Gallery
Free entry with a £5 Annual Pass | Under 18s free
Quotes sourced from: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/camden-town-group
Image Credits: Detail from The Blue Blouse, Portrait of Elene Zompolides (1880-1958) (oil on canvas), Gilman, Harold (1876-1919) Leeds Museums and Galleries (Leeds Art Gallery) U.K. Bridgeman Images; Detail from Portrait of Mrs Mounter, 1916-17 (oil on canvas), Gilman, Harold (1876-1919) Leeds Museums and Galleries (Leeds Art Gallery) U.K. Bridgeman Images. Banner image: Detail from The Balcony, Mornington Crescent, 1911 (oil on canvas), Gore, Spencer Frederick (1878-1914) Leeds Museums and Galleries (Leeds Art Gallery) U.K. Bridgeman Images