Spencer Gore

Study for a Mural Decoration for ‘The Cave of the Golden Calf’

1912

Medium
Oil paint and graphite on paper mounted on card
Dimensions
Support: 305 x 605 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1961
Reference
T00446

Catalogue entry

Entry

Background

The Cabaret Theatre Club, later known as The Cave of the Golden Calf, was a nightclub at 9 Heddon Street W1, off Regent Street. It was the brainchild of Frida Strindberg (1872–1943), the divorced second wife of the Swedish dramatist August Strindberg (1849–1912), and opened on 26 June 1912. Strindberg was an Austrian who had inherited a large fortune at an early age, and worked variously as a translator, journalist and author; she was described by the journalist Ashley Gibson, who met her shortly before the club opened, as
an amazingly masterful, intelligent, and in her way fascinating Austrian ... She already gave proofs of a mesmeric faculty for getting people to do things for her, and showed a rare discrimination in her choice of accomplices. Instinct led her without fail to select the young men who mattered, or were going to.1
Much more famously she was described by Augustus John, with whom she was infatuated, as ‘the walking hell-bitch of the Western World’.2 Jacob Epstein recalled that the project to open the club was launched at a dinner for ‘artists and those she thought would be interested in her scheme’; it should have sounded a warning for all those involved:
The meal was sumptuous, the champagne lavish. When the management presented the bill Madame Strindberg took it in her hand, and turning to the company said: ‘Who will be my knight, tonight? ... There was no response from the company!’3
Strindberg chose Spencer Gore to organise the club’s decorative scheme, which was intended to reflect and contribute to its intended avant-garde status. In a preliminary brochure issued in April 1912, Strindberg stressed that the club’s ‘decoration will be entirely and exclusively the work of leading young British artists’.4 Gore was the coordinator, and commissioned others of his circle to contribute works. The project took up much of his time during this period, and it appears also to have sapped his emotional strength, for he suffered constant pressure and unnecessary interference from his patron. Generally an even-tempered man, Gore admitted his uncharacteristic annoyance in an undated letter to his pupil John Doman Turner:

Designs

Ownership

Robert Upstone
May 2009

Notes

1
Ashley Gibson, Postscript to Adventure, London 1930, p.103; quoted in Richard Cork, Art Beyond the Gallery in Early 20th Century England, New Haven and London 1985, p.67.
2
Quoted in Michael Holroyd, Augustus John: A Biography, London 1976, p.480; for a full account of her life, see Monica Strauss, Cruel Banquet: The Life and Loves of Frida Strindberg, New York and London 2000.
3
Jacob Epstein, Let There be Sculpture, London 1940, p.116.
4
Quoted in Cork 1985, p.67.
5
Spencer Gore, letter to John Doman Turner, undated, private collection, no.34.
6
Central panel of Tiger Hunting triptych reproduced in Cork 1985, p.78.
7
Reproduced in ‘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.
8
A study for Kermesse is reproduced in Cork 1985, p.89; the work itself is untraced and not reproduced.
9
See ibid., p.95.
10
Reproduced in Judith Collins, Eric Gill: The Sculpture, London 1998, no.26.
11
Reproduced ibid., no.22.
12
Quoted in Cork 1985, p.61.
13
See ibid., p.77.
14
Frederick Gore, ‘Spencer Gore: A Memoir by his Son’, in Spencer Frederick Gore 1878–1914, exhibition catalogue, Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London 1974, p.12.
15
Reproduced in Cork 1985, pp.71–4.
16
Private collection; quoted ibid., p.77.
17
Wyndham Lewis, ‘Frederick Spencer Gore’, Blast, no.1, June 1914, p.150.
18
Mollie Gore, letter to Tate Gallery, February 1962, Tate Catalogue file.
19
Exhibition of Pictures by Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin, Stafford Gallery, London, November 1911.
20
‘The Stage Divorce Suit’, Times, 16 July 1914, p.4.
21
Austin Harrison edited English Review (1910–23) and in 1905 became editor of the Manchester Guardian. It seems possible that he was a relation of Gore and Bevan’s patron Harold Bertram Harrison (1855–1924); see Tate T00282.
22
‘The Cabaret Theatre Club’, Times, 18 April 1912, p.5.
23
‘The Cabaret Theatre Club’, Times, 27 June 1912, p.10.
24
‘The Cabaret Theatre Club’, Times, 1 July 1912, p.10.
25
Observer, 16 June 1912, p.68.
26
‘The Cabaret Theatre Club’, Times, 27 June 1912, p.10.
27
See Quentin Bell and S. Chaplin, ‘Ideal Home Rumpus’, Apollo, vol.80, no.32, October 1964, pp.284–91.
28
Lewis 1914, p.150.
29
Walter Sickert, letter to Nan Hudson, undated [?April/May 1914], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.9.
30
Walter Sickert, letter to Ethel Sands, Tuesday [?April/May 1914], Tate Archive TGA 9125/5, no.12.
31
Quoted in Cork 1985, p.112.
32
Reproduced in Wendy Baron, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, New Haven and London 2006, no.387.
33
For a full account of the Cave of the Golden Calf, see Cork 1985, pp.61–115.

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