The Camden Town Group in Context

ISBN 978-1-84976-385-1

William Ratcliffe The Artist's Room, Letchworth c.1932

Around 1932 William Ratcliffe stayed at the home of Stanley Parker and his family, whose brother designed Letchworth Garden City and the house at 102 Wilbury Road, which is the subject of this painting. Ratcliffe uses an extensive palette of complementary colours, with little mixing, to describe the confluence of textures and objects collected in the room.
William Ratcliffe 1870–1955
The Artist’s Room, Letchworth
c.1932
Oil paint on paper
457 x 552 mm
Inscribed ‘W. Ratcliffe’ bottom left and ‘Interior Sketch, W. Ratcliffe, 102 Wilbury Road’ in ink on back
Presented by S.K. Ratcliffe, the artist’s brother 1955
T00062

Entry

This picture shows the room where William Ratcliffe stayed at 102 Wilbury Road in Letchworth Garden City, the home of Stanley and Signe Parker and their family (figs.1–3). The house was specially designed for them in the Arts and Crafts tradition in 1908 by Stanley’s brother Barry Parker (1867–1947) and his partner Raymond Unwin (1863–1940), who were the key architects of Letchworth. It is now a Grade II listed building. The furniture shown in Ratcliffe’s painting is also in the Arts and Crafts style, and the scene overall reflects the relaxed, simple life that many people looked for in the Garden City.
Stanley and Signe Parker's house, 102 Wilbury Road, Letchworth Garden City c.1910
Fig.1
Stanley and Signe Parker's house, 102 Wilbury Road, Letchworth Garden City c.1910
First Garden City Heritage Museum
Photo © First Garden City Heritage Museum

Interior of Stanley and Signe Parker's house, 102 Wilbury Road, Letchworth Garden City c.1909
Fig.2
Interior of Stanley and Signe Parker's house, 102 Wilbury Road, Letchworth Garden City c.1909
First Garden City Heritage Museum
Photo © First Garden City Heritage Museum
Signe Parker sitting in her house at 102 Wilbury Road, Letchworth Garden City c.1910
Fig.3
Signe Parker sitting in her house at 102 Wilbury Road, Letchworth Garden City c.1910
First Garden City Heritage Museum
Photo © First Garden City Heritage Museum


Probably influenced by his mentor Harold Gilman and other Camden Town Group members such as Spencer Gore, Ratcliffe painted many interiors over the years. In Cottage Interior c.1914 (fig.4), as with the Tate work, blues and purples are used to accentuate the cool indoor atmosphere in contrast to the bright sunshine outside. Touches of complementary oranges and yellows are used to add warmth. In The Artist’s Room the bold red patterns in the rug, wall hanging and curtain further enhance the intimacy of the scene. Cottage Interior portrays a recently executed painting, Summer Landscape, Sweden 1913 (Government Art Collection),1 propped against the wall. In Tate’s painting the artist’s presence is felt through his hat, depicted on a small table at the centre left of the composition.
William Ratcliffe 'Cottage Interior' c.1914
Fig.4
William Ratcliffe
Cottage Interior c.1914
Private collection
© Estate of William Ratcliffe
Courtesy of Phillips Auctioneers and Wendy Baron
In a letter to the Tate Gallery in 1956, the Parkers’ daughter Lisa wrote that Ratcliffe made the picture during the period he stayed with them c.1932.2 He later stayed with the Parkers again from 1946 to 1954. Gilman had lived next door at 100 Wilbury Road for a time.
After 1921 Ratcliffe mostly made only drawings and watercolours, and so an oil of this later date is somewhat unusual.3 The freely handled use of paint and the sketchiness of the design is in distinct contrast to his earlier oils, of which Clarence Gardens (Tate T03359) is a characteristic example. According to his friend, the artist William Townsend, Ratcliffe particularly liked this work.4

Robert Upstone and Helena Bonett
February 2011

Notes

1
Reproduced at the Government Art Collection, http://www.gac.culture.gov.uk/work.aspx?obj=20627, accessed 25 February 2011.
2
Lisa Parker, letter to Tate Gallery, 6 February 1956, Tate Catalogue file. A photograph of Ratcliffe and Lisa Parker together c.1930 is reproduced in Patricia Williams, William Ratcliffe: A Country Walk, St Ives 2010, pl.15.
3
Three watercolours by Ratcliffe depicting the exterior of 102 Wilbury Road are reproduced ibid., pls.1–3.
4
William Townsend, letter to Tate Gallery, 23 March 1956, Tate Catalogue file.

How to cite

Robert Upstone and Helena Bonett, ‘The Artist’s Room, Letchworth c.1932 by William Ratcliffe’, catalogue entry, February 2011, 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/william-ratcliffe-the-artists-room-letchworth-r1139846, accessed 22 March 2019.