The Camden Town Group in Context

ISBN 978-1-84976-385-1

E. S. [?Edward Storer], ‘Art’

The Commentator, 12 July 1911, p.119.

Art.
The first exhibition of “The Camden Town Group” of artists at the Carfax Galleries, Bury Street, St. James’s, is rather an exhilarating affair. Through all the pictures displayed there runs a feeling of endeavour, of unity of purpose and intention, which is stimulating and pleasant. Here, at any rate, one feels, are men who take their work seriously, with a nice balance – the artist’s balance – of proportion of respect between their work and themselves. In forming this group, one wonders why they have honoured a part of London that one more naturally associates with murders than art. Still, I do not think we may look for a protest from that base portion of our press which has sought so strenuously of late to raise murders and murderer-baiting into a kind of national pastime. They will not feel their preserve in danger of losing its – to them – invaluable reputation from the efforts of the artists of this group. Among the fifty-five pictures on view, there is some excellent work to be seen. In technique or imaginative conception there is no marked novelty to be seen in any of the sixteen painters represented. Generally speaking, they are impressionists, impressionists of the French School of 1880–1890, but they use this technique without any of the strained effect or the set vision of pioneers. It is less to the most of them than their more imaginative purposes. Mr. John contributes two Welsh landscapes, which, though pleasant enough, are not important. Mr. Whyndham [sic] Lewis’s two curious studies of “The Architect” (Nos. 7 and 8) are the most striking things in the exhibition, though, since they are so deliberately, a sceptical spectator is rather apt to let himself be contented with the sensation of surprise and strikingness. Mr. Walter Sickert’s two pictures, “The Camden Town Murder Series,” are disappointingly unsensational after the columns of the halfpenny press. Our gladiatorialised senses demand much gruesome detail. There is no blood to be seen, and any sense of horror there may be is severely restrained. No halfpenny “sub.” of Fleet Street worth his salt would give half a column to a murder like this. As works of art, however, the pictures have the diffuse, nervous vitality of Mr. Sickert’s work, but, quite seriously, for murder studies they are not nearly murderous enough. Mr. M. G. Lightfoot’s “Mother and Child” and “Feask [sic]” (17 and 18) are in different vein from anything else in the exhibition, and it would not be hard to like them best. They are restful, calm, restrained, with the restraint of strength and good manners. Mr. Lightfoot’s work is most promising, for his colour shows him sensitive and alive, and his drawing proclaims his classical sense. Mr. Spencer F. Gore, the President of this group, exhibits four pictures, two of which, “The Bed-Sitting Room” and “Mornington Crescent” – this latter no doubt evidence of loyalty to the traditions of the school – are sentimental in rather a poor way, but the two theatre impressions, “Scene III.” and “Stage Sunrise,” are delightful little studies, warm, gracious, and yet radiating a gay piquancy and sparkle. The technique which this artist adopts serves him well here. Its fluffiness, raggedness, looseness, and the tendency of his colour to dissolve into little sentimental gradations of tone – “the brush that weeps” – charm in the artificial theatre pictures, but I find it absolutely repulsive to see Mornington Crescent looking like a silly, blushing schoolgirl, or ready to burst into tears, Tube Station and all. How curious it is that since Le Sidaner painted his delicate Parisian street scenes, nine out of ten modern artists can only look at boulevards, streets, and public buildings and places as if their hearts were breaking with an unutterable pathos. This hardly applies to Mr. M. Drummond, whose “Paddington Station” (46) is bearing up fairly well. Mr. Walter Bayes’ “Character Sketches” for Lord Dunsany’s play, “The Gods of the Mountain” (32), are clever work, along the tradition of illustrators of the Arabian Nights. Mr. Lucein Pissaro [sic], a distinguished member of this company of artists, gives us a fine open-air study in “Well Farm Bridge Acton” (15), and Mr. H. Lamb’s three exhibits are all worthy of inclusion in this interesting exhibition.
Indeed, it is surprising how high is the general level of excellence of the pictures. Intention is manifest in every canvas, and in most of them there is art too.
E. S.

How to cite

E. S. [?Edward Storer], ‘Art’, in The Commentator, 12 July 1911, p.119, 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/e-s-edward-storer-art-r1104324, accessed 24 June 2019.