Douglas Fox Pitt

The Stafford Gallery

1912

View this artwork by appointment, at Tate Britain's Prints and Drawings Rooms

Artist
Douglas Fox Pitt 1864–1922
Medium
Graphite, charcoal and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
Support: 400 x 320 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Sarah Fox-Pitt and Anthony Pitt-Rivers 2008, accessioned 2009
Reference
T12995

Catalogue entry

Entry

Although he was never one of its formal constituents, Douglas Fox Pitt was part of the circle around the Camden Town Group. When they disbanded and reconvened as the more radical London Group in 1913 – containing the advanced modern elements of David Bomberg, Jacob Epstein and the vorticists – Fox Pitt became a founder member. His own art nevertheless followed the progressive but still conservative figurative style established by the Camden Town painters, most notably adopting their bright, post-impressionist palette. Fox Pitt’s pictures of street scenes and city landscapes to some degree also recall Camden Town Group subject matter. A man of independent means, he worked generally in watercolour, and his pictures became known through a series of London exhibitions of scenes painted on foreign travels in India, Morocco and elsewhere. Closer to home, views of Brighton formed the most common subject in his art.
This watercolour of the Stafford Gallery, however, is a rare document of an early exhibition by the Scottish Colourist J.D. Fergusson at a London venue known for its displays of avant-garde art around 1912. The Stafford Gallery was a short-lived centre for the showing of modern French art. It held one of the first exhibitions of Paul Gauguin’s paintings in 1911, and this was commemorated by Spencer Gore in his well-known painting Gauguins and Connoisseurs 1911 (fig.1). Other shows included an exhibition of Pablo Picasso drawings in 1912, and early London exhibitions of Gustave Courbet, Camille Pissarro and Paul Cézanne.
Fox Pitt’s watercolour illustrates a group of paintings from the Exhibition of Pictures by J.D. Fergusson at the gallery from 9 March 1912. The central picture in the watercolour is number two in the catalogue, La Dame aux Oranges c.1908–9 (whereabouts unknown)1, which may depict Fergusson’s friend, the American artist Anne Estelle Rice (1879–1959);2 to its right is number three, Le Manteau Chinois 1909 (Fergusson Gallery, Perth);3 and on the left is number one, The Red Shawl 1908 (University of Stirling).4 Interestingly, in the exhibition catalogue it states the prices for these three paintings: The Red Shawl is £500, La Dame aux Oranges is £300, and Le Manteau Chinois is £500. This is far more than any Camden Town Group painter ever charged for one of their pictures. If the numbering in the catalogue follows the exhibition, the obscured paintings on the right of the watercolour may be numbers four to seven: Le Valeur de la Science (£200), Une Rue, Royan (£50), The Spanish Shawl (£200) and Le Compotier (£40). The art critic Frank Rutter later said of the central painting: ‘A wealth of accessories in La Dame aux Oranges orchestrated the curves and contours peculiar to the sitter into a rhythmic fugue of line and colour’.5

Robert Upstone and Helena Bonett
October 2009

Notes

1
The title is given as La Dâme aux Oranges in the catalogue.
2
Jenny Kinnear, Art Officer, Fergusson Gallery, email to Tate, 1 October 2009.
3
Reproduced in The Scottish Colourists 1900–1930: F.C.B. Cadell, J.D. Fergusson, G.L. Hunter, S.J. Peploe, exhibition catalogue, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh 2000 (27).
4
Reproduced at University of Stirling, http://www.artcol.stir.ac.uk/collection2.html, accessed 24 January 2011.
5
Frank Rutter, Some Contemporary Artists, London 1922, p.163.
6
Douglas Fox Pitt, ‘Letters to the Editor: Post-Impressionism’, New Age, 15 December 1910, p.166.

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