Spencer Gore

A Singer at the Bedford Music Hall

1912

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 533 x 432 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Mr and Mrs Robert Lewin through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1978
Reference
T02260

Display caption

The 'New Bedford' Music Hall in Camden Town was a favourite of both Gore and Sickert. This study was based on a drawing Gore made from the audience there. The singer's curiously contorted face looks like a disfigurement, but it may be that she is winking exaggeratedly at the audience while singing one of the bawdy songs with double meanings which were the point of most of these acts. However, the effect is unsettling, as too is the strange lighting of the scene, which bleaches her features. This is unlike any other painting by Gore, both more experimental and more expressive.

Gallery label, September 2004

Catalogue entry

Entry

A label on the stretcher is inscribed in ink by Harold Gilman: ‘Painted by S.F. Gore in 1912. It is painted | from one drawing done in the Bedford music | Hall. | (a) (147)’. The reverse of the canvas has been inscribed in white chalk ‘147 59 113’, which, because of its first number, is probably by Gilman too. After Gore’s death, Gilman went through his studio and numbered the canvases on their reverse in what he believed was their order of execution, adding ‘(a)’ to those he believed to be of special interest or value.
Ernest Milner 'London Transport photograph of 91–97 Camden High Street, with the Bedford Theatre of Varieties' 14 May 1904
Fig.1
Ernest Milner
London Transport photograph of 91–97 Camden High Street, with the Bedford Theatre of Varieties 14 May 1904
Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre
Photo © Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre
The Bedford Music Hall programme Monday 2 October 1899
Fig.2
The Bedford Music Hall programme Monday 2 October 1899
The Mander and Mitchenson Theatre Collection
Photo © The Mander and Mitchenson Theatre Collection / ArenaPal

The Bedford Music Hall was at 93–95 Camden High Street, just a few minutes’ walk from Gore’s flat in Houghton Place (figs.1 and 2).1 The original Bedford Music Hall opened in 1861, but burnt down in 1896. A very popular venue, it was rebuilt and opened as the Beford Palace of Varieties on 6 February 1899. The interior was designed in an ebullient neo-baroque style, opulently gilded, and decorated with plaster caryatids and putti and red velvet hangings. It could hold 1,100 people.2 The theatre attracted some of the most famous music-hall artists of the day, including Marie Lloyd, Little Tich and Charles Coburn, with his famous songs The Man Who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo and Two Lovely Black Eyes . In 1912 both the actor Charlie Chaplin and singer Gracie Fields appeared there.3

Robert Upstone
May 2009

Notes

2
See Sickert: Paintings, exhibition catalogue, Royal Academy, London 1992 (86).
4
‘Bankruptcy Law’, Times, 19 July 1911, p.22.
5
‘Music and Dancing Licences’, Times, 7 November 1908, p.12.
6
Ibid.
7
Reproduced in Spencer Frederick Gore 1878–1914, exhibition catalogue, Antony d’Offay Gallery, London 1983 (4).
8
Max Tyler, Historian of the British Music Hall Society, letter to the author, 19 December 2003.
9
Ernest Short, Fifty Years of Vaudeville, London 1946, p.229.

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