The Camden Town Group in Context

ISBN 978-1-84976-385-1

Charles Ginner Flask Walk, Hampstead, on Coronation Day 1937

Flags and bunting decorating Flask Walk in Hampstead, north London, commemorate the coronation of George VI on 12 May 1937. At a distance, an enlarged image of George and Queen Elizabeth hangs over the street; verdant trees from Hampstead Heath are visible in the background beyond.
Charles Ginner 1878–1952
Flask Walk, Hampstead, on Coronation Day
1937
Oil paint on canvas
610 x 508 mm
Inscribed ‘C. GINNER.’ in blue paint bottom left, and variously on notices and shop signs.
Purchased (Knapping Fund) 1941
N05276

Entry

The view is from the first-floor windows of Ginner’s house at 61 Hampstead High Street. It shows the decorations put up in the street opposite, Flask Walk, for the coronation of George VI on 12 May 1937. Ginner had moved to this house in 1919, occupying the four floors above the shop, but he painted the view most frequently just before he left in 1938, depicting the view on Guy Fawkes Day and under snow, both also in 1937.1 These views differ very slightly, perhaps because the room had three windows, but they also differ in focus. In the snow painting, Flask Walk is seen much closer, and it may be that Ginner used some kind of telescope.
The street signs are all partly cut off; they include on the left a notice for Hampstead Station Underground, Wills’s Gold Flake Cigarettes and Flask Pharmacy, and on the right the Flask Tavern, a butcher and Greens, an electrical shop. The Salvation Army hall is on the right. In the centre is a banner with an enlarged photograph of George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The preparatory drawing for this painting was given to the Tate Gallery in 1968 (Tate T01099, fig.1). The design is so detailed as to suggest that Ginner used some optical device. From observation and photographs of the street, it does not seem likely that he could have seen all that he includes from a single viewpoint.
Charles Ginner 'Study for 'Flask Walk, Hampstead, on Coronation Day'' 1937
Fig.1
Charles Ginner
Study for 'Flask Walk, Hampstead, on Coronation Day' 1937
Tate T01099
© The estate of Charles Ginner
Ginner drew and painted Flask Walk on numerous occasions from his windows, in such works as Flask Walk – Night 1922 (Cooper Gallery, Barnsley),2 Flask Walk, Rain c.1924 (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford),3 Flask Walk 1928 (Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester),4 Flask Walk, Hampstead, under Snow c.1930,5 Flask Walk, Skyline 1934 (Aberdeen Art Gallery),6 Flask Walk, Winter 1937 (private collection)7 and Flask Walk, Fifth November 1936 (private collection).8 A version was praised by the art critic Frank Rutter at a New English Art Club exhibition in 1923, in terms that apply to the Tate’s 1937 painting:
For perfect clarity in rendering the thing seen there is nothing better in the exhibition than Charles Ginner’s ‘Flask Walk’ (90). The view looking up this little street in Hampstead is in bright sunshine, and framed on either side between two of Mr. Ginner’s wonderful brick walls. The play of light and shade in the street, the delicate way in which the values are justly preserved right up to the glimpses of green trees in the distance, and the sense of movement in the little figures on the pavement and roadway, make up a whole that is as beautiful as it is true. It is a delightful fragment of contemporary life.9
The Times critic in 1954 concluded that despite Ginner’s realism, ‘the paintings seem to have been inspired not so much by the immediate contact with life as by intimations of nostalgia’, making Ginner ‘more a romantic than a realist’.10 The critic mentioned this painting as an example, and wrote that seeing it ‘bedecked with flags for the Coronation’ it was the art of L.S. Lowry that ‘comes to mind’.11
The art historian Malcolm Easton described the effect of colour and texture in this painting:
The windows of 61, Hampstead High Street overlook this little thoroughfare and the artist never tired of reproducing its many aspects. A black-and-white reproduction does it scant justice, all the same. Careful study of the original brings one closer to the genius of Ginner than that of any other work I know, the least promising elements in the task before him – the yellow-and-purple flag dead-centre, the red-white-and-blue paper-chains in conjunction with the green of the distant trees (the tray of his easel, owned by Mr Lock, is thickly spattered with this favourite viridian) – yielding the richest artistic dividends. Then there is the fine variety of texture woven by those idiosyncratic cow hair brushes of his: the herring-bone strokes in the sky, the long strokes receding to the vanishing-point of the far buildings and the brick-courses of the near building to the left raised solid above their ‘mortar’. Nor, in this instance, can one think less highly of the figures, for which in general he received few compliments.12
The depiction of deep perspective is remarkable, since the bunting and flags seen mostly head-on are at such varied distances, some extremely close. The bunting must have been part of the decorations running down Hampstead High Street, immediately in front of Ginner’s windows, as the rope runs on past the street entrance. The view is centred on the banner showing the new king and queen, though their grey colours hardly show against the flags. Ginner does not seem to have been especially royalist or conservative, so far as can be assumed from the subjects of his pictures and the recollections of friends. The coronation was a subject of great popular interest and public attitudes to the event at a time of national and international crisis became a theme for Mass Observation research. The painting itself is true to Ginner’s ‘Neo-Realist’ creed, and is a distant continuation of views of Paris streets with flags painted by Edouard Manet and Camille Pissarro. The emphasis, apart from the colour, is on four adults and a child walking the streets.
In Ginner’s second notebook this painting is titled both Flask Walk, 12 May 1937 and Coronation Day 1937.13 He lists the exhibition of 1939 at Liège, for which no catalogue has been found.

David Fraser Jenkins
May 2005

Revised by Helena Bonett
February 2011

Notes

1
Both reproduced in Benjamin Fairfax Hall, Paintings and Drawings by Harold Gilman and Charles Ginner in the Collection of Edward Le Bas, London 1965, as Flask Walk, November 5, pl.29 and Flask Walk, Winter, pl.30.
2
Watercolour, ink and gouache. Reproduced in Michael Lee, ‘Charles Ginner: Two Decades portraying Flask Walk’, in Michael Lee, Marianne Colloms and Ellen Emerson (eds.), Flask Walk N.W.3, London 2006, p.37.
3
Pen and ink and watercolour. Reproduced ibid., p.35. This version shows the window with curtain and a table and window ledge in the foreground with various objects.
4
Pencil and coloured chalk. Reproduced ibid., p.30.
5
Oil paint on canvas, 66 x 41 cm. Reproduced as in the collection of Edward Le Bas in John Rothenstein, Modern English Painters: Sickert to Smith, London 1952, pl.24, in between pp.176–7.
6
Oil paint on canvas. Reproduced at Aberdeen Art Gallery, http://www.aagm.co.uk/thecollections/objects/object/Flask-Walk--Skyline?l, accessed 4 February 2011.
7
Reproduced in Lee 2006, p.39.
8
Reproduced ibid., p.28.
9
Sunday Times, 3 June 1923.
10
‘Charles Ginner. Memorial Exhibition at the Tate’, Times, 30 January 1954, p.8, reproduced p.12.
11
Ibid.
12
Malcolm Easton, ‘Charles Ginner: Viewing and Finding’, Apollo, vol.91, no.97, March 1970, p.208.
13
Tate Archive TGA 9319/2, p.174.

How to cite

David Fraser Jenkins, ‘Flask Walk, Hampstead, on Coronation Day 1937 by Charles Ginner’, catalogue entry, May 2005, revised by Helena Bonett, February 2011, in Helena Bonett, Ysanne Holt, Jennifer Mundy (eds.), The Camden Town Group in Context, Tate Research Publication, May 2012, https://www.tate.org.uk/art/research-publications/camden-town-group/charles-ginner-flask-walk-hampstead-on-coronation-day-r1136452, accessed 23 April 2024.