Charles Ginner

Victoria Embankment Gardens


Not on display

Charles Ginner 1878–1952
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 664 × 461 mm
frame: 788 × 590 × 50 mm
Purchased 1984

Display caption

Victoria Embankment, built between 1864 and 1870, transformed the northern bank of the river Thames. One hundred feet wide, it extends from Westminster Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge. The reclamation of the river bank and the improved appearance of public parks were part of the growing modernisation of the city.

The small park shown here is in Westminster, near the Houses of Parliament. It is overlooked by Big Ben at the left and Victoria Tower at the right. In the middle ground the statue of the Protestant martyr William Tyndale is just visible.

Gallery label, February 2004

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Catalogue entry


The third of Ginner’s pictures of the centre of London, after The Café Royal 1911 (Tate N05050) and Leicester Square 1912 (Brighton Museum and Art Gallery), this work depicts the Houses of Parliament from an unusual viewpoint in Victoria Embankment Gardens. The two highest towers are half-hidden behind foliage: Big Ben on the left and the Victoria Tower, with a flag, on the right. Below them, looking like a crown, is the tower at the north end of Scotland Yard; at the left in a gap between the trees appear two of the smaller turrets of the Palace of Westminster. None of these buildings is painted accurately in detail. In the middle ground, not easily distinguished, is Edgar Boehm’s 1884 full-length statue of William Tyndale (1484–1536, the translator of the New Testament from Greek into English), while in the foreground a woman with a large yellow hat sits on a bench, possibly reading a book. The picture was painted in the early summer and so the buildings are partly concealed and largely upstaged by the patterning of the flower beds, bushes, trees and, behind everything, the clouds. There are no shadows to indicate the time of day, but the clock face of Big Ben might read three o’clock.
The style of this painting, with heavy outlines around islands of green, blue and yellow, was a departure for Ginner, and not repeated so far as is known. He had tried it out for the first time the summer before in France in a small oil sketch, Neuville Lane 1911 (fig.1).1 That landscape mainly shows foliage, with areas of colour separated by thick outlines placed beside each other like pieces of a jigsaw. There is a small building concealed within the foliage, as are the buildings in Victoria Embankment Gardens.
In his appreciation of Harold Gilman, Ginner mentions that they discussed the paintings by Vincent van Gogh they had seen in a private collection in Paris, that of the brothers Josse and Gaston Bernheim.2 The visit was most probably in the early autumn of 1910.3 Admission to the private collection was probably arranged with Félix Fénéon (1861–1944), the critic and dealer who ran Bernheim-Jeune, the contemporary part of the commercial gallery on the Boulevard de la Madeleine. It is evident that Ginner was then already familiar with van Gogh’s painting, and was showing it to Gilman.

David Fraser Jenkins
May 2005


Tate Archive TGA 9319/1, p.XLIII. This painting is depicted in the background of Malcolm Drummond’s At the Piano c.1912 (Art Gallery of South Australia), as it belonged to Drummond. Neuville was the area of Dieppe where Walter Sickert owned a small house from about 1902 to 1911. In 1911 Sickert was living in London until he went to Neuville after his marriage in July, and it may be that he lent his house to Ginner, as he had to Harold Gilman in 1907. While staying in Dieppe in 1911 Ginner painted three large views of the town and three small oils, including Neuville Lane.
Charles Ginner, ‘Harold Gilman: An Appreciation’, Art and Letters, vol.2, no.4, Summer 1919, pp.129–35.
Frank Rutter, ‘The Work of Harold Gilman and Spencer Gore: A Definitive Survey’, Studio, vol.101, no.456, March 1931, p.208.
Wendy Baron, The Camden Town Group, exhibition catalogue, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven 1980, p.29.
An Exhibition of the Work of Modern French Artists, Brighton Public Art Galleries, June–August 1910.
Reproductions of three of these illustrations are in Charles Ginner 1876–1952, exhibition catalogue, Fine Art Society, London 1985 (1–3).
Times, 30 January 1954, p.8.
Tate Archive TGA 9319/1, p.LVII.
Observer, 22 February 1914, p.7.
Richard Cork, Art Beyond the Gallery in Early 20th Century England, New Haven 1985, p.71.
The murals are listed in his notebook as decorative panels entitled Chasing Monkeys, Birds and Indians and Tiger Hunting, Tate Archive TGA 9319/1. A photograph of the lost Tiger Hunting mural and an oil study are reproduced in Cork 1985, figs.104 and 110, pp.78 and 82–3. For more on the Cave of the Golden Calf, see Tate T00446.
Information from Brian Sewell, 11 September 2002.

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