Charles Ginner

Piccadilly Circus

1912

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 813 x 660 mm
frame: 939 x 786 x 65 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1980
Reference
T03096

Display caption

Piccadilly Circus was London’s busiest intersection and by 1910 was already dominated by its famous illuminated advertisements. Here Ginner captures the brashness and bustle of this epitome of the modern city. The feeling that the flower seller is imprisoned by motor cars and buses is emphasised by the low view point of the composition, while the passing bus advertises the latest music hall show.

Gallery label, July 2007

Catalogue entry

Entry

Subject

Ginner’s view of Piccadilly Circus in central London shows at the right the island pavement around the base of Alfred Gilbert’s statue of Eros, where a coster woman is seated on a stool selling flowers from two baskets. A smartly dressed woman in a large hat walks past, while a man to the left is partly hidden by a taxi. The taxi, two buses and a car driving around the island are shown in detail, complete with their advertisements and route signs, but their forms are difficult to make out exactly as they overlap. The viewpoint looks south towards the Criterion Grill Room and the building to its east, although the architecture in the background, which is not much of a feature of the painting, is simplified and not quite accurate in detail.1
London Stereoscopic Company 'Traffic around the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus, London' 1910
Fig.1
London Stereoscopic Company
Traffic around the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus, London 1910
Hulton Archive
Photo © Getty Images
To see this view, Ginner must have placed himself on the pavement near the Regent Street quadrant, or, more likely, within the traffic between a row of bollards that were then dividing the road into separate lanes. A photograph of Piccadilly Circus taken from an upper window in 1910 shows a flower-seller sitting in the same spot (fig.1). In this photograph several smart-looking people are walking by briskly, as in the painting, using the island as a shortcut between Regent Street and Leicester Square. The painting is larger than usual for Ginner, and is focused on the figure of the flower-seller, whose mauve scarf stands out, and who is placed beside the strongest colours in the picture, her red flowers (which are possibly anemones and chrysanthemums).
The notices on the buses are prominent and seem to be recorded accurately. The bus in the centre of the painting has the route boards, ‘CLAPHAM JUNCTION (19) HIGHBURY B[...]’ and ‘BATTERSEA BR[IDGE] KINGS Rd SLOANE (19) PICCADILLY TOTTENH[AM] | BLOOMSBURY ANGEL ISLING[TON] | HYDE PAR[K S]HAFTESB[URY]’. It carries an advertisement for the theatre ‘THE | NEW | ALHAMBR[A] | REVUE | ATTRACTION | ATMOSPHERE’. These details link some of Ginner’s favourite places. Performances at the Alhambra Theatre were a particular subject of Spencer Gore, and Ginner himself included its exterior in his Leicester Square 1912 (fig.2).

Other depictions

Style and reception

Ownership

David Fraser Jenkins
May 2005

Notes

1
At this time the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain was in the centre of the junction some distance from the Criterion; it was not until the 1980s that the statue was moved to its current site at the south-western corner of Piccadilly Circus, close to the Criterion.
2
Information from G.W.B. Lacey, Science Museum, letter to Richard Morphet, 15 December 1982, Tate Catalogue file.
3
Information from Oliver Green, Curator, London Transport Museum, letter to Richard Morphet, 11 January 1983, Tate Catalogue file.
4
See, for example, Thomas Burke, Out and About: A Note-Book of London in War-Time, London 1919, pp.81–3.
5
P.F. William Ryan, ‘London’s Flower Girls’, in George R. Sims (ed.), Living London, vol.2, London 1906, p.50.
6
Reproduced in British Drawings and Watercolours 1890–1940, exhibition catalogue, Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London 1982 (29).
7
Tate Archive TGA 9319/1, p.XXIX.
8
Ibid., p.LXI.
9
Both in Pall Mall Gazette, 24 April and 13 June 1912.
10
Reproduced in Impressionism in Britain, exhibition catalogue, Barbican Art Gallery, London 1995 (156).
11
Piccadilly Circus, cat.171, Fleming Collection, Fleming-Wyfold Art Foundation.
12
Twenty Years of British Art 1890–1910, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, May–June 1910, p.10.
13
Sylvie Patin, ‘The Return of Whistler and Monet to the Thames’, in Turner Whistler Monet, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2004, p.189.
14
Julius Meier-Graefe, Modern Art: Being a Contribution to a New System of Aesthetics, vol.2, translated by Florence Simmonds and George W. Chrystal, London 1908, p.303.
15
Remi Labrusse and Jacqueline Munck, ‘André Derain in London (1906–07): Letters and a Sketchbook’, Burlington Magazine, vol.146, no.1213, April 2004, pp.243–50.
16
There are several paintings by Derain of the Thames embankment, see Michel Kellermann, André Derain, catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint, vol.1, Paris 1992, nos.93, 94 and 95. The view of St Paul’s must have been Londres: La cathédrale Saint Paul vue de la Tamise, reproduced ibid., no.103, now at Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
17
Sunday Times, 28 August 1910, p.6.
18
See Anna Gruetzner Robins, Modern Art in Britain 1910–1914, exhibition catalogue, Barbican Art Gallery, London 1997, p.197, n.2.
19
Malcolm Easton, ‘Charles Ginner: Viewing and Finding’, Apollo, vol.91, no.97, March 1970, p.204.
20
Tate Archive TGA 9319/1, p.LXI.
21
W.R., ‘Round the Galleries. The Camden Town Group’, Sunday Times, 29 December 1912, p.6.
22
G.R.H., ‘Gallery and Studio’, Pall Mall Gazette, 12 December 1912, p.7.
23
See Richard Cork, Art Beyond the Gallery in Early 20th Century England, London 1985, p.303, and Hazel R. Williamson, The Theory and Practice of Neo-Realism in the Work of Harold Gilman and Charles Ginner, unpublished Ph.D thesis, University of Leicester 1992, pp.133–43.
24
Tate Archive TGA 9319/1, p.XLIX.
25
Cork 1985, p.303.
26
Easton 1970, p.206; listed in Ginner’s first notebook as being reproduced in Lady’s Realm, April 1912; see Tate Archive TGA 9319/1, p.CXXXV.
27
Williamson 1992, p.137.
28
‘Un Cabaret de cubistes à Londres’, L’Actualité, 10 November 1912. Reproduction is from Jeffrey Weiss, The Popular Culture of Modern Art: Picasso, Duchamp and Avant-Gardism, New Haven 1994, p.196.
29
Tate Archive TGA 9319/1, p.LXI, and TGA 9319/3, p.271.

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