Spencer Gore

The Gas Cooker

1913

Artist
Spencer Gore 1878–1914
Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 730 x 368 mm
frame: 898 x 556 x 63 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1962
Reference
T00496

Not on display

Display caption

Gore was, with Walter Sickert and Harold Gilman, a member of the Camden Town Group. Following his marriage to Mollie Kerr in 1912 he moved into a first floor flat in Houghton Place, behind Mornington Crescent underground station. Here he shows Mollie in the kitchen of this flat, preparing dinner over the gas cooker.

In common with many of his contemporaries, Gore sees an unremarkable interior and mundane domestic chores as subjects worthy of serious art, and invests them with a quiet intensity.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Entry

Spencer Gore shows the kitchen at 2 Houghton Place, NW1, with his wife Mollie cooking at the gas stove. The writer John Woodeson stated that:
Mrs S. Gore informed me that she did not formally pose for the picture, but that Gore made sketches of her while she was working in the kitchen. The room is the kitchen of the Gore’s flat at 2 Houghton Place, and double doors lead to the front room.1
Three pencil studies for the painting are in private collections: one shows just the figure of Mrs Gore (356 x 254 mm), another the kitchen without any occupant (355 x 240 mm, Agnew’s, London), but the third is a graphite and blue pencil version of the oil painting’s full composition (354 x 258 mm), the only difference being that in this third drawing Gore has included the detail of their cat Bunty drinking a saucer of milk, a feature absent in the final design. None of these drawings are squared up; a squared-up watercolour for the final composition, presumably that upon which Gore based the Tate painting, was sold at Sotheby’s.2 It differs from the final painting only in that it shows Mollie standing more upright, rather than slightly bending over the stove.
The long thin format of the picture gives a vivid sense of the high ceiling of the Gore’s accommodation. They occupied the first floor of 2 Houghton Place, a substantial five-storey residence built in the kind of brick and stucco Regency style common to Camden Town and Mornington Crescent. The first floor would originally have housed the principal drawing room. The Gores seem to have used the front half of this room as their living room, and the back half, through dividing doors, as the kitchen. The previous use of this area, when the house was all one, explains the kitchen’s smart red wallpaper with its gold imperial laurel wreath pattern. In its viewpoint and subject matter, the painting bears similarities with Harold Gilman’s In Sickert’s House at Neuville 1907 (fig.1), The Kitchen c.1908 (fig.2) and Shopping List 1912 (fig.3).

Robert Upstone
May 2009

Notes

1
Spencer Gore 1878–1914, exhibition catalogue, The Minories, Colchester 1970 (61).
2
Modern British & Irish Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, Sotheby’s, London, 28 September 1994 (56, reproduced).
3
The ellipses indicate illegible text.
4
This and subsequent gas historical information supplied by British Gas.
5
N.R. de Lissa, Cooking by Gas: A Guide to the Correct and Economical Use of the Gas Cooking Stove, London 1913, pp.29, 28.
6
Notebook B357, p.26–7, Booth Collection, Archives of British Library of Political and Economic Science, London School of Economics.
7
Spencer Gore 1878–1914, exhibition catalogue, The Minories, Colchester 1970 (39).

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