Charles Ginner

La Vieille Balayeuse, Dieppe


Not on display

Charles Ginner 1878–1952
Oil paint on canvas
Unconfirmed: 630 × 470 mm
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the Tate Gallery 2010

Display caption

Ginner was born in France, but settled
in London in 1910. He was a founder member of the Camden Town Group,
and frequently painted images of life
in the city. Here, the figure of the Vielle Balayeuse, or 'old sweeping woman' dominates the crowded street of the Normandy port.

Ginner manipulates details to achieve
a balanced composition. For example,
the unusually tall lamp post in the background forms part of a triangle
and acts as a vortex, drawing attention
to the old woman sweeping the street.


Gallery label, September 2004

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Catalogue entry



The title of this painting translates from the French as The Old Street Sweeper, Dieppe. The line of a tall lamp-post leads the viewer’s eye down towards the sweeper, positioned in the centre foreground of the composition, as the focus of the painting. Behind her a small crowd is gathered on the pavement; the heads of a few people behind the group face outwards, suggesting that they are selling produce, most probably fish, to the rest. The presence of the electric light dominating the middle ground in favour of the smaller gas lamp suggests an encroaching modernity to this traditional market scene.
Characteristically for Ginner, the fore-, middle- and backgrounds are painted in almost the same level of detail and focus, with tiles on the roofs in the background individually articulated. A sense of depth is created instead by the use of pale hues in the background in contrast to stronger colours in the foreground. Influenced by Vincent van Gogh, Ginner often used complementary colours in his work. In this case, purple and yellow are the most prominent, while the bright red of the young woman’s jacket on the right complements the green of the apron of a small girl who stands in the crowd, thus uniting the two; their poses mirror one another also.
The location of the scene is the Fish Market beside the Avant Port where the Arc Poissonnerie and the Quai Henri IV meet in the town of Dieppe in northern France.1 The houses in the background on the Quai Henri IV are depicted accurately, as can be seen in photographs from the time.2 The sweeper is using a typical French street broom made out of tied twigs of birch or broom. Traditionally, pavements would be swept in a swinging gesture, picking up water from the gutter to brush the damp head onto the pavement in a rhythmic fashion.3
The scene encompasses a diverse range of people in age, class and work in a similar fashion to Ginner’s Piccadilly Circus of 1912 (Tate T03096). To the left of the painting an old fisherwoman in traditional working clothes and apron stands with hands on hips facing out of the picture with a large fish basket on her back; on the right a young, middle class woman in modern smart clothes, who may be a tourist, faces in the opposite direction. Together with the sweeper, they create a triangular formation. The casual poses of the other figures, with men in working clothes standing with hands in pockets, creates an atmosphere of working class life similar to Robert Bevan’s paintings of crowds at horse sales in such works as Horse Sale at the Barbican 1912 (Tate N04750, fig.1) and Under the Hammer 1914 (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool).4


Exhibition and reception

Related works and ownership

Helena Bonett
August 2011


A map of Dieppe is reproduced in The Dieppe Connection: The Town and its Artists from Turner to Braque, catalogue for the exhibition Rendez-vous à Dieppe, Brighton Museum and Art Gallery 1992, [p.93].
For example, see a photograph of the Avant Port from the turn of the century, reproduced ibid., pp.88–9. The location of this painting is in the centre of the photograph on p.88.
Information from Françoise Durrance, Gallery Educator, Royal Academy of Arts, London.
Reproduced at the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool,, accessed 7 December 2010.
Tate Archive TGA 9319/1, pp.LXVIII–LXX. See fig.4.
Tate Archive TGA 9319/1, pp.XI, LXX. See fig.4. Le Quai Duquesne pochade is reproduced at Your Paintings,, accessed 10 August 2011.
Reproduced at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC,, accessed 28 December 2010.
Reproduced in Brighton Museum and Art Gallery 1992 (45).
Reproduced in Wendy Baron, Perfect Moderns: A History of the Camden Town Group, Aldershot and Vermont 2000, no.11.
Reproduced in The Painters of Camden Town 1905–1920, exhibition catalogue, Christie’s, London 1988 (91).
These notebooks are in the Tate Archive, TGA 9319.
T.E. Hulme, ‘Modern Art – III. The London Group’, New Age, 26 March 1914, p.661.
Rebecca Beasley, ‘“A definite meaning”: The Art Criticism of T.E. Hulme’, in Edward P. Comentale and Andrzej Gasiorek (eds.), T.E. Hulme and the Question of Modernism, Aldershot 2006, p.59.
Charles Ginner, ‘Neo-Realism’, New Age, 1 January 1914, p.271.
Ibid., pp.271, 272.
Hulme 26 March 1914, p.661.
Beasley 2006, p.68.
T.E. Hulme, ‘Modern Art – II. A Preface Note and Neo-Realism’, New Age, 12 February 1914, p.468.
Reproduced in James Beechey, ‘Edward Le Bas’, Charleston Magazine, no.16, Autumn/Winter 1997, p.43.
‘August in England’: Paintings by Ruth Doggett, Fine Art Society, London, February–March 1934.
Reproduced in Baron 2000, no.58.

Read full Catalogue entry


You might like

In the shop