The Camden Town Group in Context

ISBN 978-1-84976-385-1

Charles Marriott, ‘Notes on Art Exhibitions’

Evening Standard and St. James’s Gazette, 6 December 1912, p.10.

NOTES ON ART EXHIBITIONS.
By Charles Marriott.
 The dozen or so vigorous young painters who form the “Camden Town Group” are now giving their third exhibition at the Carfax Gallery, Bury-street, St. James’s. Their common principles may be described as a belief in the pictorial possibilities of London and a certain toughness of quality which seems to proceed from a keen recognition of their duty towards paint. Roughly speaking, an artist has two duties – towards nature and towards his materials – and, contrary to the general belief, it is the last that is most often neglected. I cannot remember the exact words, but Vincent Van Gogh said it very well in one of his letters – you begin by fussing about being true to nature and end by being true to your palette “and nature results.” The truth is, I suppose, that nature will have none of your impudence about being true to her; get on with your job, and she responds.
 So far as nature is concerned, the Camden Towners see her red and blue and green and yellow, and they are not afraid to say so in the best paint at their command. Assuming that nature has a voice in the matter, I believe she would rather be celebrated in paint than in a sort of shoddy imitation of her own substances – which is what many painters conceive to be their duty. The young painters at the Carfax Gallery are in rather than of Camden Town, and this year several of them have been into the country with the happiest results. The effect, in such pictures as “Stamford Brook Green (Snow)” (11), by Mr. Lucien Pinarro [sic], “Reapers, Sweden” (20), by Mr. H. Gilman, “Port” (37), by Mr. Walter Bayes, “In the Blagden Hills” (40), by Mr. R.P. Bevan, and “Landscape” (45), by Mr. W. Ratcliffe, is that the painters concerned have newly discovered the country, which is a great relief after the familiar way in which many landscape painters seem to slobber over the goddess they are suppose [sic] to worship with such humility.
 Among the purely London scenes, “Euston from the Nursery” (15), by Mr. S.F. Gore; “Piccadilly-circus” (24), by Mr. C. Ginner; “St. James’s Park” (29), by Mr. M.C. Drummond; and “Clarence Gardens” (42), by Mr. Ratcliffe, may be named for their vivid reality, which, being expressed in decorative terms of paint, is far above “realism.” Mr. Walter Sickert, the sternest painter of the group, is represented by some rather austere but masterly figure studies, Mr. J. Doman Turner by good water-colours, and Mr. Wyndham Lewis by “Danse” (25). Mr. Lewis, with evident purpose but not yet, to me, perfectly intelligible results, is experimenting in “Cubism.” Form as determined, and movement as suggested by the intersection of planes, is a not very clear way of describing what he seems to me to be getting at. Supposing the air, while retaining its transparency, were solid, the differences of refraction caused by moving bodies would produce effects very similar to those represented by Mr. Lewis. Anyhow, there is much more dancing about his picture than if he had copied the models with the greatest care. At the same gallery there are some decorative paintings, including five brush drawings of the Russian Ballet, by Mr. Charles Freegrove Winzer. “The Merry-go-round” (6) and “Parte de Sombra” (10), or the belle of the bull-fight, as it might be called, are particularly good.
 The Baillie Gallery is given up to four illustrators – one of them a caricaturist. Miss M. V. Wheelhouse is by far the most interesting of the four. The drawings are nearly all to illustrate Victorian feminine writers, such as Mrs. Gaskell, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Mrs. Ewing, and it is very seldom that writers are interpreted with such perfect sympathy. Miss Wheelhouse’s “interiors,” as in “Stop a minute, darling, said Mrs. Gibson” (8) and “‘Maman Maman,’ cried the little fellow” (10), for “Wives and Daughters,” her latest enjoyment, are not so much reconstructions as living experiences of period and atmosphere, and the delicate emotions of the situations represented are so perfectly expressed that you hardly notice the drawing and colour. In several of her landscape backgrounds Miss Wheelhouse has been at pains to draw the actual places described, with a resulting sting of reality that could be got by no other means. No lover of the best we mean by “Victorian” should miss this exhibition. The other exhibitors are Mr. F. L. Griggs, who shows excellent drawings of English “landscape architecture,” “Oxford, from Magdalen Tower” (7), St. Alban’s Abbey” (8), and “Shipton Court, Oxon” (50), being three of the best; Mr. C.P. Hawkes, who shows clever caricatures, including “Mr. H. B. Irving” (1), “Mr. J.M. Barrie” (7), “Sir Henry J. Wood” (14), and “Lord Ribblesdale” (22); and Mr. L. Leslie Brooke, whose illustrations to humorous fairy-tales are clear and amusing, if not very distinguished in drawing. Some crayon portraits by the same artist have character and quality.

How to cite

Charles Marriott, ‘Notes on Art Exhibitions’, in Evening Standard and St. James’s Gazette, 6 December 1912, p.10, 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-marriott-notes-on-art-exhibitions-r1104259, accessed 25 June 2019.