Catalogue entry

T02028 PORTRAIT OF HILDA CARLINE

Inscribed ‘Richard Carline 1918’ b.r.
Oil on canvas: 30×25 (70.6×60.4)
Presented by the Artist, 1976
Exh: The Spencers and the Carlines in Hampstead in the 1920's, an exhibition at the Cookham Festival 1973 (2); Hampstead One, Gallery Edward Harvane, London, 1973 (36); Painting 1914–24, South London Art Gallery, 1974 (22)

The following information was given to the compiler in conversation with the artist, 11 June 1976.

T02028 was painted in April 1918 in the artist's studio at 14a Downshire Hill. Like T.1914 it was painted while the artist was in the Royal Air Force, engaged on painting aerial views of the Western Front for training purposes. He had opportunities for his own painting at intervals during this work.

T02028 is a further example of the harsh realist approach that interested Carline at that time. In this approach, the representation of physical beauty or the ‘picturesque’ was to be avoided, beauty being confined to the picture.

Hilda, the artist's sister, is seated on a plain rush chair that happened to be in the studio, seen against a patterned, and not at all elegant, ‘Victorian’ curtain that screened off part of the studio. The setting was the actual one and was not specially arranged. The blue necklace of Venetian beads was frequently worn by her.

In the preface to the Cookham exhibition, the artist wrote: ‘If Hilda's nose appeared to be red, I would frankly make it so, and I think that the “kitchen sink” idea began then’. (He did several paintings of the kitchen sink at 47 Downshire Hill where his mother lived in the early 1920's.) He later added, ‘I think she had a cold and her red nose was part of the objective truth that I aimed for.’

Richard Carline visited Harold Gilman occasionally in Parliament Hill during 1918, and felt the influence of his style of painting. Gilman's technique, in which separate distinct patches of colour were laid on in juxtaposition, influenced him as in the broad areas of red and green on Hilda's face. Like Hilda, he had studied during 1914 and 1915 at Tudor-Hart's art school in Hampstead and this included lectures on colour theory and tonal scales and their application in painting. He always felt indebted to Tudor-Hart for his concern with tone values.

T02028 was submitted for the London Group's spring exhibition in 1920 but rejected. Shortly afterwards, Roger Fry, whom he met accidentally in Percy Young's art shop in Gower Street, told him that he had admired T02028 when pictures submitted for the London Group were shown, and that, given more time, he would have persuaded the jury to accept it. Carline was surprised, later, when he was informed that he had been elected a member of the London Group, and he attributed this to Fry's influence. The artist told the compiler that when he decided to study at the Slade School in 1921 he lost Fry's support.

There are no preparatory studies for T02028. The artist does not think he had time or the opportunity, in between essential war work, to make any. He had painted an earlier portrait of Hilda in 1915 which Stanley Spencer owned (now lost). He owns a letter from Stanley Spencer, written 8 December 1919, which contains a reference to these two portraits:-

‘I like more and more, as I think of it, the later portrait of your sister (T02028). I think that, possibly, doing the earlier one put you on the scent.’ He also painted Hilda at Muirhead Bone's house at Steep in 1921, and again in his studio in 1923. His self-portrait of 1918 (Imperial War Museum) was painted about the same time and in a similar manner to T02028.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978