A major new scholarly research project about the Camden Town Group of painters in Edwardian Britain was launched today on Tate’s website.
The Camden Town Group in Context marks the culmination of many years of research into Tate’s collection of artworks by the Camden Town Group, which included Charles Ginner, Spencer Gore, Harold Gilman and Walter Sickert. Realised with grant support from the Getty Foundation through its Online Scholarly Catalogue Initiative, the project explores the artists’ works in the context of British society and culture before the First World War. The Camden Town Group in Context is Tate’s first online collection research project and provides a model for future such projects at Tate.
The Camden Town Group was a short-lived exhibiting society of artists but its name has since become synonymous with a distinctive period in the history of British art in the 1900s and 1910s. Named after the area of north London in which Sickert and Gore lived and painted, the group held just three exhibitions in 1911 and 1912. It dissolved shortly afterwards, but for a period represented a determined effort by its members to explore new ways of representing the ordinary realities of modern urban life.
Tate owns the largest and most significant public collection of art and archives relating to the Camden Town Group. The new online project includes 18 new artist biographies, 127 full catalogue entries, and 110 archival items, such as letters, photographs and sketches, selected from the holdings of Tate Archive. Among well known paintings featured in the project are Charles Ginner’s Piccadilly Circus 1912, Harold Gilman’s Mrs Mounter at the Breakfast Table exhibited 1917, and Walter Sickert’s La Hollandaise c.1906 and Ennui c.1914.
Taking the paintings’ subjects as a starting point, the project looks more broadly at a number of themes: history and reception, modernity and the metropolis, social class and social type, popular culture and performance, gender and sexuality, and life beyond the city – in the light of social, economic and cultural changes in Britain before the First World War. Linked to the entries on artworks, which were written by Tate curators, conservators and researchers, are twenty-four newly commissioned essays by leading scholars from a wide range of disciplines and subject areas.
Offering a rich resource for researchers, the project also includes six previously published articles of scholarly importance, as well as transcripts of reviews of the Camden Town Group exhibitions. Users can browse through the three Camden Town Group exhibition catalogues and read letters in Tate’s Archive by key figures of the period (for example, Walter Bayes, Robert Bevan, Jacob Epstein, Eric Gill, Harold Gilman, Augustus John, Henry Lamb, James Bolivar Manson, Lucien Pissarro and William Rothenstein). There are many previously unpublished photographs, as well as excerpts of films of London street scenes and music hall songs popular in the period. The project also has short films showing a conservator discussing the materials and techniques used in Camden Town paintings. The project was edited by Helena Bonett, Ysanne Holt and Jennifer Mundy.