Harold Gilman

Canal Bridge, Flekkefjord

c.1913

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 464 x 615 mm
frame: 666 x 816 x 83 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1922
Reference
N03684

Display caption

Flekkefjord is in Norway. It is not known why Gilman twice visited Scandinavia, in 1912 and 1913. It is possible that he went with the painter William Ratcliffe, who had family there. The visits were effectively working expeditions, and Gilman made many studies of towns and scenery. This bridge is painted accurately, but it is likely that Gilman chose the subject thinking of van Gogh's painting of a similar bridge in Provence. Gilman at first rejected Van Gogh's style, but later he came to admire him deeply. His friend Wyndham Lewis recalled that he had a number of Van Gogh postcards on his walls, and when he painted a picture that particularly pleased him, he would hang it next to them.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Entry

Background

Following the success of a trip to Sweden in 1912 which spurred him into a bout of creativity, the following year Gilman visited Norway and again produced a large number of pictures, both landscapes and urban scenes. He made another picture of Flekkefjord showing a street scene, which is now in a private collection.2
By comparison with most of the other Camden Town Group artists, Gilman travelled abroad quite widely. In 1894 he spent twelve months in Odessa as tutor to the children of an English family. After leaving the Slade, he went to Madrid for around a year in 1901–2, where he studied and copied Velázquez at the Prado, and where he also met and married his first wife, Grace Canedy. In 1905 they made a long visit to the United States to visit Grace’s family in Illinois and, in 1918, a few months before he died, Gilman went to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to make studies for Halifax Harbour at Sunset 1918 (National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa),3 a commission from the Canadian War Records Office. Gilman apparently considered an even more adventurous journey to find inspiration for his work. In an anecdote which is revealing both of his idealism and his initial admiration for the post-impressionist painter Paul Gauguin, Gilman reputedly put forward a proposal to his Camden Town Group colleagues that they should all go and live in the South Seas and have Arthur Clifton of the Carfax Gallery act as their agent in London. Reputedly, Spencer Gore quietly dissuaded Gilman.4
Gilman visited France on a number of occasions, and exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants from 1908 to 1910, and again in 1912 and 1913. In 1907 he stayed at Walter Sickert’s house at Neuville outside Dieppe and, most importantly, he visited Paris in late 1910 or early 1911 with his friends Charles Ginner and Frank Rutter in order to see impressionist and post-impressionist pictures. Ginner recalled how they looked at
collections such as Bernheim’s, who possessed a room entirely decorated with the works of Van Gogh, a sight unsurpassed in beauty and intensity; Durand Ruel’s collection of French Impressionists; Pellerin’s Cézannes; also the Vollard and Sagot Galleries with their Rousseaus, Picassos, Vuillards, etc.5

Influence

Subject and ownership

Robert Upstone
May 2009

Notes

1
Wyndham Lewis and Louis F. Fergusson, Harold Gilman: An Appreciation, London 1919, p.14.
2
Reproduced in The Painters of Camden Town 1905–1920, exhibition catalogue, Christie’s, London 1988 (128, as ‘Swedish or Norwegian Landscape’).
3
Reproduced in Jean Sutherland Boggs, The National Gallery of Canada, London 1971, no.87.
4
See Andrew Causey, ‘Harold Gilman: An Englishman and Post-Impressionism’, in Harold Gilman 1876–1919, exhibition catalogue, Arts Council, London 1981, pp.12–13.
5
Charles Ginner, ‘Harold Gilman: An Appreciation’, in Memorial Exhibition of Works by the Late Harold Gilman, exhibition catalogue, Leicester Galleries, London 1919, p.5.
6
Reproduced in Wendy Baron, Perfect Moderns: A History of the Camden Town Group, Aldershot and Vermont 2000, p.143.
7
Reproduced in Arts Council 1981 (17).
8
See Causey 1981, pp.3–8.
9
Walter Sickert, ‘Abjuro’, Art News, 3 February 1910, in Anna Gruetzner Robins (ed.), Walter Richard Sickert: The Complete Writings on Art, Oxford 2000, p.193.
10
Ginner 1919, p.5.
11
Wyndham Lewis and Louis F. Fergusson, Harold Gilman: An Appreciation, London 1919, pp.12–13.
12
Frank Rutter, ‘The Work of Harold Gilman and Spencer Gore: A Definitive Study’, Studio, vol.101, March 1931, p.207.
13
See J.-B. de la Faille, The Works of Vincent Van Gogh: His Paintings and Drawings, Amsterdam 1970, nos.397, 400, 570–1.
14
Ibid., no.570.
15
See Roy A. Perry, ‘Harold Gilman: Canal Bridge, Flekkefjord’, in Stephen Hackney (ed.), Completing the Picture: The Materials and Techniques of Twenty-Six Paintings in the Tate Gallery, London 1982, p.79.
16
Harold Gilman and William Ratcliffe, exhibition catalogue, Southampton Art Gallery 2002, p.17.
17
Carl Hambro, Cultural Attaché, Royal Norwegian Embassy, letter to Tate Gallery, 9 April 1956, Tate Catalogue file.
18
Ada Polak, Deputy Curator in Britain, The Arts and Crafts Museums of Norway, letter to Tate Gallery, 3 November 1987, Tate Catalogue file.

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