The Camden Town Group in Context

ISBN 978-1-84976-385-1

Spencer Gore Letchworth 1912

This painting is thought to depict Norton Common in Letchworth Garden City. Although observed from nature, the simplified forms and bold colours suggest the influence of fauvism and cubism. Gore was then living temporarily in Letchworth and while there moved away from his earlier impressionist style.
Spencer Gore 1878–1914
Letchworth
1912
Oil paint on canvas
510 x 610 mm
Inscribed studio stamp ‘S.F. GORE’ bottom right
Purchased (Clarke Fund) 1933
N04675

Entry

Spencer Gore 'Harold Gilman's House at Letchworth' 1912
Fig.1
Spencer Gore
Harold Gilman's House at Letchworth 1912
Leicester Arts and Museums Service
Photo © Leicester Arts and Museums Service
Between August and November 1912 Gore and his wife Mollie lived in Harold Gilman’s house at 100 Wilbury Road, Letchworth Garden City, and it was here that their first child Elizabeth was born (fig.1). Gilman lent them the house while he was away in Sweden, in the wake of the break-up of his marriage. It had been specially designed for Gilman, and included a self-contained artist’s studio, with separate entrance and bedroom above. The accommodation must have been more spacious than the Gores’ Houghton Place flat, and with the added advantage of a proper studio.
The large quantity of work that Gore produced in Letchworth marked an important point in his evolution as an artist. He began to move away from the impressionist style which characterised his Mornington Crescent period pictures into a way of working that was more resolutely modern. The stylisation and simplification of forms and use of pure colour suggest the partial influence of cubism and fauvism. Gore’s Letchworth paintings display a new dedication to geometric planes and pattern making, as well as the use of a staunchly anti-realist, bright and frequently almost lurid palette.
While the exact location shown in Letchworth is difficult to establish with complete certainty, it seems in all likelihood that it is a spot on Norton Common, the area of wooded and common land lying immediately to the north of the town. This was just a short distance from where Gore was staying at Wilbury Road. In the middle distance there is a small bridge over a stream which, if this is Norton Common, would be Pix Brook. The columns visible in the background may be connected with the bowling green on the common. Further evidence to support this location was given by Brynhild Parker, daughter of Stanley Parker. The Parkers lived next door to Gilman at 102 Wilbury Road. In 1982 Brynhild Parker wrote to Letchworth Museum and Art Gallery recalling Gore and that ‘He painted a picture of the Common near us, which is in the Tate’.1 No other picture except for Letchworth would fit this.

Robert Upstone
May 2009

Notes

1
Brynhild Parker, letter to John Marjoram, Senior Curator, Letchworth Museum and Art Gallery, 17 November 1982.

How to cite

Robert Upstone, ‘Letchworth 1912 by Spencer Gore’, catalogue entry, May 2009, 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/spencer-gore-letchworth-r1129517, accessed 16 February 2019.