In 1908 Robert Bevan held a second solo exhibition at the Baillie Gallery in London, but it was barely mentioned in the press. That same year, however, brought a turning point in his career with his decision to exhibit at the inaugural exhibition at the Royal Albert Hall in July of the Allied Artists’ Association. This was an exhibiting society formed by the critic Frank Rutter on the model of the Paris Salon d’Automne which, unlike the Royal Academy, did not vet the works submitted. Instead, for a subscription, artists could simply exhibit a fixed number of works. Although the first, vast exhibition consisted of over 4,000 items, each artist’s pictures were shown as a group together. The five pictures Bevan submitted cannot now be identified. But they were admired by Spencer Gore and Harold Gilman, neither of whom had seen his work before, and they invited Bevan to join the Fitzroy Street Group. This was an important development for Bevan. For the first time since his days in Pont-Aven in Brittany, fourteen years earlier, he was part of a group of painters with shared interests. Perhaps more fundamentally, he was also given an opportunity to sell his work, and for it to be seen by important collectors and critics of contemporary British art.
Bevan was one of the older members of the group, and he seems to have quickly taken up a distinct position at Fitzroy Street. His friend Walter Bayes, another recruit from the Allied Artists’ Association exhibition, recalled that:
Bevan was rather the Mæcenas of the group whose subscription was always paid to date, and he was, I fancy, sometimes a help in time of trouble. His gruff voice and appearance of a fox-hunting squire was rather refreshing at Fitzroy Street, where some (of the visitors rather than the members) tended to be ‘arty.’ When respectable American ladies who were seeing ‘Yurrup’ came to Fitzroy Street, it was Bevan who used to fish out for display to them Gilman’s most realistic and intimate nudes.1
Bevan’s allowance from his parents allowed him to buy his friends’ work, effectively subsidising their own careers in a modest way, and formed the basis of the collection that was displayed in 2008 at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.2 His son estimated that:
Walter Bayes, ‘The Camden Town Group’, Saturday Review, 25 January 1930, p.101.
See From Sickert to Gertler: Modern British Art from Boxted House, exhibition catalogue, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh 2008.
R.A. Bevan, Robert Bevan 1865–1925: A Memoir by his Son, London 1965, p.19.
Marjorie Lilly, Sickert: The Painter and his Circle, London 1971, p.102.
Untraced, once in the collection of Judge Evans, reproduced in Colour Magazine, July 1918, p.128. A crayon and watercolour study of the same composition is reproduced in Bevan 1965, pl.28.
Repainted in 1922, this second version reproduced in Frances Stenlake, Robert Bevan: From Gauguin to Camden Town, London 2008, p.168. The composition was also used for a lithograph Bevan made in 1924–5, reproduced in Stenlake 2008, p.169.
Reproduced ibid., p.85.
Reproduced ibid., p.89.
Shown at the 1911 Camden Town Group exhibition (32). The 3 December review in the Sunday Times confirmed it was a cab subject.
Shown at the 1911 Camden Town Group exhibition.
Reproduced in Bevan 1965, pl.35.
Reproduced ibid., pl.32, as Fields at Cuckfield.
Robert Bevan, Sketchbook IV.1.14, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent, London 1990, p.165.
W.J. Gordon, The Horse World of London, London 1893, p.41.
Trevor May, Gondolas and Growlers: The History of the London Horse Cab, Stroud 1995, p.vi.
All statistics taken from Trevor May, Gondolas and Growlers: The History of the London Horse Cab, Stroud 1995, pp.v, 166.
Trevor May, Victorian and Edwardian Horse Cabs, Princes Risborough 1999, p.29.
Tate Archive TGA 9210/1/2.
W.J. Gordon, The Horse World of London, London 1896, pp.39, 44.
Frank Rutter, ‘Round the Galleries’, Sunday Times, 25 June 1911, p.5.
Frank Rutter, ‘Round the Galleries: New English Art Club’, Sunday Times, 27 November 1910, p.2.
Bevan 1965, p.16.
Desmond MacCarthy, ‘Mr. Walter Sickert and the Camden Town Group’, Eye-Witness, 6 July 1911, p.84.
‘The Camden Wonders’, Morning Post, 3 June 1911.
‘The Camden Town Group’, The Bazaar, the Exchange and Mart, 30 June 1911, p.1319.
A., ‘An Art Experiment. Exhibition of the New “Camden Town Group.”’, Daily Graphic, 15 June 1911, p.19.
‘“Art Anarchists.” Exhibition of Pictures by the Camden Town Group’, Morning Leader, 15 June 1911.
Huntly Carter, ‘Art’, New Age, 9 June 1910, p.135.
Alfred Rich (1856–1921).
Spencer Gore, letter to John Doman Turner, 22 November 1910, private collection, no.29.
Spencer Gore, letter to John Doman Turner, 26 November 1910, private collection, no.30.