During his first years in Letchworth, Ratcliffe worked as a freelance designer producing illustrations of the Garden City for books, postcards and the annual engagement calendar published by new printing companies such as the Garden City Press, as well as possibly continuing with his wallpaper designs.3 However, with Gilman’s encouragement, Ratcliffe decided to abandon graphic design and enrol at the Slade School of Fine Art in London. He studied there part-time for a term starting in January 1910,4 and at the same time began attending the regular ‘At Homes’ held at 19 Fitzroy Street under the auspices of Walter Sickert. Paintings such as Interior c.1911 (private collection),5 which depicts a woman seated in a domestic interior painted in bright colours with impasto brushstrokes, show the impact the new group had on his work.6 Likewise, in depicting a central London square in Clarence Gardens 1912 (Tate T03359, fig.5), Gilman’s and Gore’s treatment of similar subject matter is evident.
William Ratcliffe (6 October 1870 – January 1955) was one of the Camden Town Group of artists in early twentieth-century England. Although he never achieved the fame of other members of the Group, such as his friend and mentor Harold Gilman, he remained a full-time artist throughout his life, relying on the support of friends and family.
Modern Painters: Sickert's famous dictum heralded a move towards a gritty realism in British painting