Artist biography

Spencer Gore 'Self-Portrait' 1914
Spencer Gore
Self-Portrait 1914
National Portrait Gallery, London
Photo © National Portrait Gallery, London
Spencer Frederick Gore, often known as ‘Freddy’, was in many ways the most important of the Camden Town Group (figs.1 and 2). It was he who with Walter Sickert gathered artists together to form the Fitzroy Street Group. He was also involved in the formation of the Allied Artists’ Association and was the first president of the Camden Town Group. He would undoubtedly have been the first president of the London Group too if he had not proposed Harold Gilman;1 Gore became the treasurer instead. He organised the Exhibition of the Work of English Post-Impressionists, Cubists and Others in Brighton in 1913, which marked the division between post-impressionism and what was to become vorticism.2 As Sickert wrote of his friend, ‘He took incessant risks, but he had social and artistic tact to a rare degree’; his short career – he was only thirty-five when he died of pneumonia – was still an ‘astonishing’ one.3
Spencer Gore
Spencer Gore
© Private collection
Courtesy of the Gore family
Gore was born on 26 May 1878 in Epsom in Surrey, the fourth child of Spencer William Gore (1850–1906) and Amy Gore (née Smith, William’s senior business partner’s daughter). His father was a partner in Smith, Gore & Co. (now Smiths Gore), who were land agents to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in Yorkshire; he was also winner of the first Lawn Tennis Championship at Wimbledon in 1877. Gore’s childhood was spent in Holywell, Kent. He attended Harrow School from 1892 to 1896 where he discovered his love of art, winning the first Yates Thompson Prize for drawing. He also inherited his father’s sporting abilities, excelling in cricket while at school.
Enrolled at the Slade School of Fine Art from 1896 to 1899, Gore’s contemporaries included Gilman (fig.3), Augustus John, Wyndham Lewis, William Orpen and Albert Rutherston, with many of whom he made lasting friendships. Gore was taught by Frederick Brown, Philip Wilson Steer and Henry Tonks. Although not much of Gore’s early work survives, some landscapes, such as The Cricket Match c.1908 (The Hepworth Wakefield),4 reveal the influence of Steer’s English impressionism of the late 1880s and early 1890s; Steer, in turn, had been inspired by Claude Monet as well as neo-impressionists such as Georges Seurat.5

Helena Bonett
September 2009