Modern Painters: The Camden Town Group: Room guide, Modernity / Man-made Environment

William Ratcliffe, ‘Hampstead Garden Suburb from Willifield Way’ c.1914
William Ratcliffe
Hampstead Garden Suburb from Willifield Way c.1914
© The estate of William Ratcliffe

The painters of the Camden Town Group shared a willingness to engage with the spirit of contemporary life. As Charles Ginner wrote, ‘Each age has its landscape, its atmosphere, its cities, its people’ and art should be concerned with exploring the topical themes and features of its day. Consequently, places where human intervention had shaped and altered the landscape were viewed as sites through which to access authentic reality. Man-made features such as the railway and modern architecture provided appropriate subjects against which to apply geometric forms, highly patterned compositions and intense colours.

Gilman, Gore and Ratcliffe also became interested in new ideas about social urban planning. Spaces such as Hampstead Garden Suburb and the garden city of Letchworth deliberately combined the physical and moral health of the countryside with the intellectual and economic vitality of the city, and represented an idealised environment for their optimistic vision of modernity.