The Camden Town Group in Context

ISBN 978-1-84976-385-1

Charles Lewis Hind

Daily Chronicle, 19 December 1912.

 A certain writer, sad and civil, like Malvolio, but with a lively pen, was asked to compose a book on the New Movement in Art. He declined, saying, “Such a work would have to be a serial, not a book, because a new movement is born each week.”
 Yesterday, as it were, with Matisse as propagandist, the New Movement reflected the present moment, the past obliterated. Matisse states in a rush of impulse, the immediate sensation of the eye, virginal, fresh as the dawn and inhuman as a tape-machine; he attempts to recapture the pure vision of the child, such a vision as Mr. William Davies wrought into a beautiful poem –
 A hundred butterflies saw I,
 But not one like the child saw fly,
 My world this day has lovely been,
 But not like what the child has seen.
 That was yesterday. Matisse already belongs to yesterday. To-day we have the young bloods of the Slade school showing us the newest new movement in art at the Chenil Gallery. It is far removed from Matisse and the immediate vision of the moment: it is a swing back to early Italian art for inspiration – Pinturicchio, Fiorenzo di Lorenzo – anybody. Here is Mr. J. S. Currie painting in “The Lost Child” Chelsea coster men and women, and Chelsea arab kids in the manner of fifteenth century Italy, and Mr. Mark Gertler seconding him with single figures. Here is Mr. Currie’s “Joyous Visit” modern figures, and his “Workers’ Wives,” types from Mr. Arnold Bennett’s Five Towns all dipped in a Florentine bath and emerging precisely primitive in radiant colours. These young men can draw: they show no timidity: they have frankly borrowed the eyes of the Italian smaller Masters. It is all very interesting and amusing, but I wonder how the grave professors of the Slade regard their teams when they see them kicking over the traces and sporting some in the meadows of medievalism, some in the uplands of anarchy.
 He, Augustus John, shows “Works” in an upper room at the Chenil Gallery. It is the present fashion for critics to print a list of the painters upon whom John has looked plagiarisingly on his route back to Giotto; but the charge amounts to little. So much remains of the essential John. “How,” I ask myself, “does he get the wild-grace charm of his ‘On the Road to Nant-ddu,’ the intimate characterisation, the naif allure of such studies in tempera as ‘The Two Friends’ and ‘The Two Disciples’? Nobody else could do them. They defy analysis.
 The Camden Town Group, now exhibiting at the Carfax Gallery, is another expression of the New Movement, but the cloak that enwraps this group is as wide as the winds. Mr. Sickert stands in the centre with his ugly, sensitive, bitter and accomplished artistry. I would not buy his “Summer in Naples” myself, but if Uncle Ben were a real connoisseur in painting he would have to add this horrid, intelligent thing to his collection. Mr. H. Lamb is himself. He advances: he does not change or look around. His two studies in heads are connoisseur’s pieces.
 Mr. Wyndham Lewis and Mr. Walter Bayes belong rather to the Carfax School than the Camden Town Group. Mr. Lewis’s “Danse” is pure Cubism. He has taken the malady very badly. Among Mr. Walter Bayes’s contributions is a beautiful study in tone tenderness called “Shade,” expressing a subtle sensation of shade on a hot day. It is the kind of picture that anybody looking at, whether they be Cubist or Crudist, Sentimentalist or Suffragist, would say: “Beautiful.” Now here is a tangle. Mr. Walter Bayes, it is an open secret, is a writer on art, perhaps the only writer who has analysed Cubism seriously, As If He Liked It. But, when he paints, he produces, not a Cubist contortion, but this beautiful “Shade,” persuasive as a Whistler. “Why?” I ask myself. The answer would seem to be this: Cubism is scientific. The bent of Mr. Bayes’s mind is scientific. Intellectually he is a scientist. But his stock-in-trade as an artist is emotion. Therefore, when he writes he extols Cubism, but when he paints emotion holds him, and he produces the subtle statement of feeling called “Shade.”

How to cite

Charles Lewis Hind, in Daily Chronicle, 19 December 1912, in Helena Bonett, Ysanne Holt, Jennifer Mundy (eds.), The Camden Town Group in Context, Tate Research Publication, May 2012,, accessed 27 May 2024.