Hilda Carline



Not on display

Hilda Carline 1889–1950
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 749 × 578 mm
frame: 810 × 637 × 70 mm
Presented by Miss Shirin Spencer and Miss Unity Spencer, the artist's daughters, and Richard Carline the artist's brother 1975

Display caption

The 1920s saw a revival in portraiture, and a belief in the importance of self-realisation influenced by modern psychology. The First World War had increased the numbers of women in the workforce, and in 1918 the vote was extended to many women. Carline had served in the Women’s Land Army during the war and the directness of her gaze is suggestive of the increased independence of the modern woman of the inter-war period. Carline trained with the post-impressionist painter Percyval Tudor-Hart and at the Slade School of Fine Art, where her brothers Sydney and Richard also studied.

Gallery label, January 2018

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Catalogue entry


Not inscribed

Oil on canvas 29 1/2×22 3/4 (74.3×57.8) (measurements before restoration)
Presented by Miss Shirin and Miss Unity Spencer and Richard Carline 1975
Coll: Miss Shirin and Miss Unity Spencer, the artist's daughters
Exh: The Spencers and the Carlines in Hampstead in the 1920's, The Odney Club, Cookham, May–June 1973 (13, Hilda Carline Section)

The following has been compiled from information provided by Richard Carline.

Hilda Carline, sister of Sydney and Richard, studied under her father at Oxford and then at Tudor-Hart's School of Art in Hampstead from 1914 to 1915 (see T02028). At this time she painted lyrical, brightly coloured abstract work; Tudor-Hart's own work was academic but he was very open-minded and recognized the work of Picasso and the Cubists. Hilda then went to the Slade from 1910 to 1920 and again in 1922. In 1920 after receiving a prize for painting she taught Tudor-Hart's colour theories to a group of Slade students in Hampstead. In February 1925 she married Stanley Spencer and moved to Henry Lamb's Vale of Heath studio with him. Spencer had lived with the Carlines on and off from December 1922.

The ‘Self-Portrait’ was painted in the artist's bedroom in the Carline family home, 47 Downshire Hill, where they had moved in 1917. The bedroom was divided off from the drawing-room by a screen, not visible in the painting. On the walls are three unidentifiable paintings, probably by her father, George F. Carline, R.B.A. (1855–1920). The brass bed, now in Richard Carline's house, appears to be covered with an Indian print. The artist is wearing a cornelian necklace brought back from Persia by her brothers in 1919.

Richard Carline dates the picture in spring or early summer 1923, chiefly on stylistic grounds and partly on recollections, before the artist went to France and Spain with the family in July. Though 1924 is possible, he prefers the earlier date.

Until her marriage and removal to the Vale of Heath Studio (Hampstead) Hilda Carline painted quite regularly and according to Richard Carline, this was a very fruitful period.

In T01998 there is a marked difference in quality between the painting of the head and torso, and arms, which hang down in front of her jersey. As her brother points out, she would have been using her arms and hands to hold her palette and brushes while painting and would therefore, have painted them from memory instead of from sight.

There are no drawings or preliminary sketches for T01998 that Richard Carline knows but there is a front view half-length self-portrait drawing made about 1921, apparently with a view to a painting which was not carried out.

Richard Carline painted Hilda's portrait in 1915 and 1918 (T02028), and she also appears in the sketch for his ‘Family Meal at 47 Downshire Hill’ 1923, (the final painting was destroyed), and ‘Gathering on the Terrace at 47 Downshire Hill’ 1924–5.

Other portraits by her include those of ‘Miss Silcox’ 1925, Stanley Spencer c. 1926, her mother c. 1930 and her daughter Shirin, 1931. Her full-length portrait of her maid, Elsie, at Burghclere was greatly admired by Stanley Spencer and he took it back to Cookham after Hilda died.

This entry has been approved and edited by Richard Carline.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1974-6: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1978


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