The Camden Town Group in Context

ISBN 978-1-84976-385-1

James Bolivar Manson Pinks in a Vase c.1940

Manson painted a large number of flower still lifes over the years, often rearranging furniture in his house to create a composition. In this picture, a table is pushed back into the corner of a room. A tin with a yellow label and a blue ceramic vase on the tabletop are the strongest areas of colour in contrast to the delicate impasto and pale pink of the flower blossoms.
James Bolivar Manson 1879–1945
Pinks in a Vase
Oil paint on canvas
508 x 406 mm
Purchased (Knapping Fund) 1942


Manson’s flower pictures appear to have been painted in his home at 98 Hampstead Way in Hampstead Garden Suburb. Frequently, they include elements of furniture that indicate the domestic setting. The checked table-cloth in Pinks in a Vase also appears in Still Life with Red Roses of 1939 (private collection).1 Here the table is placed against Manson’s bookshelves, and it seems likely he moved the table around for different paintings: in Pinks in a Vase it is in a different place or room. In the background the frame of a painting is just visible on the wall. On the table to the right of the vase is a tin with a yellow label; on the left is something difficult to read but may be intended simply to be wrinkles in the tablecloth.
Of Manson’s love of nature, his friend R.R. Tatlock wrote that the artist ‘found himself inspired most enjoyably when confronted with Nature’s most abundantly luscious gifts’.2 Likewise, the critic Charles Marriott wrote in the foreword to Manson’s 1925 exhibition:
Of all pictures, the kind of pictures painted by J.B. Manson should stand least in need of introduction, because they are addressed directly to enjoyment. Thought has gone into their making, but they are as independent of thinking for their appreciation as is music or something good to eat.3
It is difficult to ascertain the date Pinks in a Vase was painted with any certainty, as the work is not dated and Manson made many flower paintings over a long period. Manson was Director of the Tate Gallery from 1930 until 1938. This painting was purchased from the artist in 1942, perhaps in part owing to Manson’s financial difficulties,4 which suggests that it was probably painted around that time.

Robert Upstone and Helena Bonett
February 2011


Reproduced in Twentieth Century British Art, Christie’s, South Kensington, 26 July 2001 (89).
R.R. Tatlock, ‘James Bolivar Manson 1879–1945’, in James Bolivar Manson 1879–1945, exhibition catalogue, Wildenstein, London 1946, [p.4].
Charles Marriott, ‘Foreword’, in Pictures by J.B. Manson, exhibition catalogue, Ruskin Galleries, Birmingham 1925.
David Buckman, James Bolivar Manson: An English Impressionist, 1879–1945, London 1973, pp.42, 44.

How to cite

Robert Upstone and Helena Bonett, ‘Pinks in a Vase c.1940 by James Bolivar Manson’, catalogue entry, February 2011, in Helena Bonett, Ysanne Holt, Jennifer Mundy (eds.), The Camden Town Group in Context, Tate Research Publication, May 2012,, accessed 28 January 2022.