Shanghai Art Museum (Shanghai, China): British Landscape
- Spencer Gore 1878–1914
- Oil paint on canvas
- Support: 686 x 787 mm
frame: 815 x 924 x 73 mm
- Purchased 1975
Gore used the simple but highly effective compositional device of a straight path, track or road heading directly away from the viewer’s standpoint in several Letchworth canvases, notably The Icknield Way 1912 (fig.1) and Letchworth, The Road 1912 (fig.2), although in both of these the direction is more diagonal than in The Cinder Path. He had also employed a very similar composition in a 1909 work, The Garden, Hertingfordbury (fig.3), which is painted in a more traditionally impressionist style. It is a device which strongly enhances the geometric and pattern-making effects contained in such paintings, for it leads the eye into the work where it is immediately confronted by contrasting and opposing planes, and by the angularity of stylised forms. It also provides a regulating effect, as the art historian Ysanne Holt has observed: ‘Roads and pathways were always attractive to Gore because of their ordering effect: they “suggest” a human presence and they provide both a formal and psychological stability.’1 Although the paintings are dissimilar in most respects, Gore may have been aware of Lucien Pissarro’s A Foot-Path, Colchester 1911 (private collection),2 which shows a figure walking away down a path that leads directly off into the distance and which was shown at the first Camden Town Group exhibition.
Gore took a strictly naturalist approach to painting landscapes, and generally did not introduce artificial features. Although he sometimes treated landscape in a highly stylised manner, The Beanfield, Letchworth 1912 (Tate T01859) being a notable example, he was, in fact, generally a highly accurate topographer. In his Letchworth pictures Gore evolved a practice of rationalising the shapes of trees and clouds, giving them straight edges and outlines and a highly geometric, stylised structure. However, this was always the result of an intense study of his subject and, despite such simplification of forms, he nevertheless aimed to remain true to nature. Reviewing the exhibition Manet and the Post-Impressionists at the Grafton Galleries in the Art News in 1910, Gore observed that:
Letchworth Garden City
Ysanne Holt, ‘An Ideal Modernity: Spencer Gore at Letchworth’, in David Peters Corbett, Ysanne Holt and Fiona Russell (eds.), The Geographies of Englishness: Landscape and the National Past 1880–1940, New Haven and London 2002, p.103.
Reproduced in Wendy Baron, The Camden Town Group, London 1979, p.271.
Spencer Frederick Gore, ‘Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh &c., at the Grafton Galleries’, Art News, 15 December 1910, p.19.
Spencer Gore, letter to John Doman Turner, 23 June 1909, private collection, no.17.
See Ebenezer Howard, Tomorrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform, London 1898.
Quoted in Frank Jackson, ‘The Growth and Development of the First Garden City of Letchworth’, in Where Shall I Live? The Building of the First Garden City at Letchworth (1903–14), exhibition catalogue, Nottingham University Art Gallery 1979, [p.2].
London 1898; republished in revised edition as Garden Cities of To-morrow, 1902.
Spencer Gore 1878–1914, exhibition catalogue, The Minories, Colchester 1970 (47).
Brynhild Parker, letter to John Marjoram, Senior Curator, Letchworth Museum and Art Gallery, 17 November 1982.
Anna Mercer, Curator, Letchworth Museum and Art Gallery, letter to the author, 6 February 1995.
Reproduced in Annual Exhibition of 20th Century British Paintings, Watercolours and Drawings, exhibition catalogue, Spink, London 1991 (13).
Baron 1979, pp.292–3.