Nancy Carline

Supper on the Terrace


Not on display

Nancy Carline 1909–2004
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 610 × 765 mm
frame: 784 × 934 × 73 mm
Presented by the artist 1985

Display caption

In this family portrait, the artist shows herself in the background, with her future husband, the painter Richard Carline, seated between his mother and sister, the painter Hilda Carline. The artist's fluid brushwork gives the painting a spontaneous look, as though it were sketched on the spot at their family home in Hampstead. Yet in fact, she has used the painting to blend past and present. It was painted a year after the mother's death and commemorates her enduring spirit and psychological impact on the members of this close-knit family group.

Gallery label, September 2004

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Catalogue entry

This page comprises two separate full catalogue texts.

Nancy Carline born 1909

T04117 Supper on the Terrace 1946

Oil on canvas
610 x 765 (24 x 30 1/8)

Inscribed in oil 'NC', b.r. and b.l.
Inscribed on back in brown paint on canvas turnover, 'NANCY CARLINE Supper on the Terrace | at 17 Pond Street | 1946'; earlier inscription underneath in pencil ' ...] Nancy Carline 194[5 or 6]'

Presented by the artist 1985

From Sketch to Finish, Hampstead Artists Council, Studio House, Hampstead, May 1953 (catalogued not traced)
The Corbet and Carline Families, Shrewsbury Art Gallery, March-April 1958 (101, as Supper in the Garden)
Hampstead Artists 1900-1960, Hampstead Artists' Council, Hampstead Town Hall, May-June 1960 (13, as Summer Evening)
The Carline Family, Leicester Galleries, London, May-June 1971 (54)
Spencers and Carlines: The Works of Stanley and Hilda Spencer and their Families, Morley Gallery, London, Sept.-Oct. 1980, The Arts Centre, Folkestone, Oct.-Nov., York City Art Gallery, Dec. 1980-Jan. 1981 (22, as Supper on the terrace at 17 Pond Street, Hampstead, repr.)
Nancy Carline, Camden Arts Centre, London, July 1985 (8)
The Carline Family, Kings Lynn Festival & Arts Centre, Sept.-Nov. 1991 (36)

Giles Auty, 'A Measure of Quality', Spectator, 13 July 1985, pp.31-2
Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1984-86, London 1988, pp.120-121

Supper on the Terrace, which was painted before the artist and Richard Carline were married but signed afterwards, is one of a number of paintings by Nancy Carline of 17 Pond Street, Hampstead, Richard Carline's family home.1 The picture shows Richard Carline, flanked by his mother Anne on the left and sister Hilda on the right. The artist also included a self-portrait standing in the background on the left-hand side. An earlier catalogue essay about Supper on the Terrace, based upon a conversation with the artist, has related details of the painting to those of the actual garden in some detail.2 Nancy Carline did not paint Supper on the Terrace before the subject but at the home of her mother in Purley, Surrey. She had made on the spot a small oil sketch for the picture during June and July 1946 which she used as the basis for the final painting;3 this process was also characteristic of Richard Carline's practice. Both Richard and Hilda Carline sat for the sketch, which took a couple of hours to complete and is composed as if the artist was also sitting at the table. However, the final painting differs from the sketch in a number of ways. Neither the artist nor her mother-in-law appear in the sketch and the figure of Hilda Carline is cut off by the right-hand edge. The sense of the final painting being more of an ensemble piece is enhanced by the repositioning of the viewer further to the left so that the composition is focused less upon the figure of Richard. The viewpoint is also higher in the painting so that the viewer, who now looks down upon the table, is more removed from the group.

Supper on the Terrace is painted on a commercially prepared canvas with an off-white ground over an old stretcher. The artist employed a variety of techniques, rubbing and scraping the paint, which had been vigorously applied using brush and knife. Whilst thinly painted in certain areas, most particularly towards the bottom corners, other parts, especially the vegetation in the centre, have quite a thick impasto. Later retouching by the artist is evident, most notably in the bottom right hand corner. The picture's overall warm colouring is enhanced by the underlaying of certain areas - the sky and the right-hand figure for instance - with deep pink. Though the artist sometimes prepared her canvases by rubbing red pigment into them, the visible areas of bare canvas show that this was not the case here. The red colouring may relate to the timing of the scene, a summer evening, as much as to the artist's method.

As the earlier Tate Gallery entry shows, the artist conjured up a sense of place and mood through the inclusion of apparently accurate details like the damask table cloth and the coffee pot on the table. From a watercolour by Anne Carline entitled Garden Under Snow, 1943 (private collection)4 it is clear that Supper on the Terrace shows only one side of the garden. The omission, in Supper on the Terrace, of other houses and the emphasis on the church adds to the bucolic feeling already established by the luscious profusion of vegetation depicted by rich greens and the dabs of pink and white of the roses. The central area of strong yellows and greens creates a sense of a summer's evening and provides, along with the contrastingly shadowed figure of Richard, the visual focus of the composition. This illustrates what has been described as Carline's repeated use of 'gleams of light (in the sky, or on water, bright leaves or paths), which lead the eye into the picture and counterpoint its local detail with a sense of openness and natural radiance'.5

At the time that Supper on the Terrace was painted Richard Carline was engaged in one of the major projects of his career, the organisation for UNESCO of the Exposition internationale d'art moderne, which was shown at the Musée d'art moderne in Paris in November 1946. Anne Carline had died the year before, but her portrait was added to the group by the artist as her forceful character was still felt at Pond Street. The picture thus becomes, in a sense, a memorial to Mrs Carline and a celebration of the family of which she was the head. Hilda Carline returned to live in Hampstead in October 1935 after the collapse of her marriage to the painter Stanley Spencer. In his biography of Spencer, Kenneth Pople has described how Hilda's subsequent isolation from her husband caused her considerable nervous strain which, having improved, was exacerbated by the death of her mother in October 1945. She told Spencer that, as a result of this loss, she was no longer interested in Christian Science, a belief which she shared with her family.6 Nancy Carline's depiction of Hilda, resting her head on her hand in the traditional pose of melancholy, gives the painting an air of contemplation as well as of celebration.

The Carline family had lived in Hampstead since 1917, when they had settled in Downshire Hill, moving the short distance to Pond Street in 1936. As a painting dynasty they had a reputation as a close-knit family and as the centre of a wider artistic community, which Henry Lamb once referred to as the 'circle pan-artistique of Downshire Hill'.7 Richard Carline himself recalled, 'as far back as I can remember, I acquired the feeling that we, as an artist's family, always discussing art, little as I understood what it meant, seemed separate, like a race apart, living in our own world of self-expression'.8 This sense of containment is reflected in the number of portraits, including group studies, that were executed by members of the family of each other. Nancy Carline painted Supper on the Terrace with the knowledge of two important group portraits by Richard Carline: Gathering on the Terrace, 1925 (Ferens Art Gallery, Hull)9 and, most particularly, Family Group at 47 Downshire Hill, which was bought by the Contemporary Art Society in 1924 but destroyed shortly afterwards in a flood at the Tate Gallery, where it was stored. Richard Carline retained a number of studies and possessed photographs of the final work. (Though the painting is conventionally dated 1923, these studies, now in the Tate Gallery Archive, are inscribed 1924). The painting shows the Carline family - Anne, Hilda and brothers George and Sydney - seated around the kitchen table with a self-portrait in the background. That Anne Carline was the dominant personality of the group is clear from her pivotal position in the painting. As well as their common theme, Supper on the Terrace shares a number of compositional features with this earlier work by Richard: both are based around a diagonally viewed table and in both the artists include themselves, set apart from the main group, in contemplation. However, Nancy Carline's treatment of the subject is in marked contrast with that of her husband. His sharply delineated forms rendered in tones of brown and grey are replaced by the rich colour and expressive handling that reveal her appreciation of Bonnard and Vuillard.

Chris Stephens
November 1997

1 This entry has been completed with the help of the artist
2 Tate Gallery Acquisitions 1984-86, London 1988, pp.120-121
3 Untitled oil sketch for Supper on the Terrace, artist's collection
4 Repr. Spencers and Carlines: The Works of Stanley and Hilda Spencer and their Families, exh. cat., Morley Gallery, London 1980, no.3
5 Richard Morphet, Nancy Carline, exh. cat., Camden Arts Centre, London 1985
6 Kenneth Pople, Stanley Spencer, 1991, p.457
7 Quoted by Elizabeth Cowling in Richard Carline 1896-1980, exh. cat., Camden Arts Centre, London 1983, p.15
8 Ibid., p.11
9 Repr. Camden Arts Centre 1983, p.27

Full catalogue entry from The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84

Nancy Carline born 1909

T04117 Supper on the Terrace 1946

Oil on canvas 610 x 765 (24 x 30 1/8)
Inscribed ‘NC' b.r. and b.l. and ‘NANCY CARLINE Supper on the Terrace | at 17 Pond Street | 1946' on top canvas turnover
Presented by the artist 1985
Exh: Hampstead Artists 1900-1960, Hampstead Artists' Council, Hampstead Town Hall, May-June 1960 (13 as ‘Summer Evening'); The Carline Family, Leicester Galleries, May-June 1971 (54); Spencers & Carlines: The Work of Stanley and Hilda Spencer and their Families, Morley Gallery, Sept.-Oct. 1980, The Arts Centre, Folkestone, Oct.-Nov. 1980, York City Art Gallery, Dec. 1980-Jan.1981 (22, repr., as ‘Supper on the terrace at 17 Pond Street, Hampstead'); Nancy Carline, Camden Arts Centre, July 1985 (8)
Lit: Giles Auty, ‘A measure of quality', Spectator, 13 July 1985, p.31

This entry is based on a conversation with the artist on 11 February 1988.

T04117 was painted in the house of the artist's mother at Purley, near Croydon, Surrey, in the late summer of 1946. Nancy Carline executed a small oil sketch (collection the artist, 148 x 229, 7 x 9) on the terrace at 17 Pond Street, London, during June or July 1946, which served as the basis for T04117. T04117 is one of the largest works she had painted up to that date. The Carline family moved into 17 Pond Street, Hampstead, London from 47 Downshire Hill, Hampstead in 1936. George Carline (1855-1920) had settled with his family at the Downshire Hill address in 1917. Those members of the family who moved to Pond Street in 1936 were Mrs George Carline (1862-1945) a painter, under the name Anne Carline, with two of her children, Hilda (1889-1950), a painter, and Richard (1896-1980), also a painter. Hilda Carline was married to the painter Stanley Spencer from 1925 to 1933 and she stayed occasionally at 17 Pond Street during the 1930s. The Tate owns two portraits of Hilda Carline, one a self portrait of 1923 (T01998) and the other painted by Richard Carline in 1918 (T02028). Richard Carline married Nancy Higgins, the painter of T04117; this picture was painted before they married but signed afterwards.

Nancy Carline painted her small oil sketch for T04117 in a couple of hours on the terrace at Pond Street and both Richard and Hilda Carline sat for the artist for this. The sketch shows the table in the foreground, just as it is in the painting, with Richard Carline seated centrally behind it and Hilda Carline seated to the right. The left-hand side of the table in the sketch is empty. By June or July 1946 when the sketch was executed, Mrs George Carline was dead. But because she was such a forceful character and her presence was still felt at Pond Street in the year after her death, Nancy Carline decided to include a portrait of her in T04117 and to depict her on the left of the table. In both the sketch and T04117, the table is set with an old damask table cloth, which had been dyed pink, and in the painting a favourite old copper coffee pot can be seen centrally placed. Richard Carline is wearing a ‘snuff-coloured suit'. By 1946, Richard Carline had risen to an eminent position in the British art world, organising major exhibitions, contributing to catalogues, advising on art education and founding artists' committees. In the summer of 1946 he would have been involved in preparations for an exhibition which he organised for UNESCO, entitled Exposition internationale d'art moderne, and which took place in November of that year at the Musée d'art moderne in Paris.

The garden which lies directly beyond the terrace was the subject of a watercolour by Mrs George Carline in 1943, ‘Garden under Snow' (repr. Morley Gallery 1980, [p.7]). This work shows the low-walled terrace and a larger section of the garden than is visible in T04117. Nancy Carline believes that Hilda Carline was responsible for the design of the terrace, which consisted of stone flags and three sections of a low stone wall. A large stone mortar sat on top of one of the sections of wall, and this can be seen directly to the left of Hilda Carline in T04117. The terrace was reached down a few steps from the back door of the house. From the terrace, the garden at 17 Pond Street sloped steeply down on the right to a railway line which served the North London line. The artist remembered that every twenty minutes or so the passing trains whistled and filled the lower part of the garden with smoke. The garden had a range of bushes, shrubs and large old trees dotted at intervals. Rose bushes in bloom appear in T04117. The artist has painted herself on the far left of the composition, directly behind Mrs George Carline, positioned just beyond the wall of the terrace and beside a clematis bush which grew over the supports. The wall behind her is the end wall of The Roebuck public house, also in Pond Street. The spire seen in the distance is that of Christ Church on Christchurch Hill, Hampstead. The general hue of T04117 is a warm red and this is because at that time the artist prepared her canvases by rubbing red pigment into them, to form the basic ground. The warm hue also indicates that the painting represents evening, with the scene lit by the setting sun.

The theme of presenting a group of the artist's friends at leisure in an outdoor domestic setting had already been tried by Richard Carline in his large oil painting of 1925 ‘Gathering on the Terrace' (repr. Richard Carline 1896-1980, exh. cat., Camden Arts Centre 1983, p.27). Richard Carline's painting ‘sought to convey the conflicting personalities', (Camden Arts Centre 1983, p.40) including Stanley Spencer, Henry Lamb and his own mother and Hilda, his sister, who gathered at his family home, then at 47 Downshire Hill. T04117 was painted with the knowledge of the earlier work. 17 Pond Street remained Richard and Nancy Carline's home until his death in 1980, and hers until it was sold two years later. After Richard Carline's death Nancy Carline moved to Oxford.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.120-1

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