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Camden Town Group – National Portrait Gallery

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Beyond the Camden Town Group.

Friday, 10th December 2010 – David Franchi

“Camden Town and Beyond” remarks the homonymous group of artists contribute to the English modern art, at the National Portrait Gallery until the 31st August 2011. 

This fascinating display celebrates the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Camden Town Group that was composed by English Post-Impressionist artists active during the years 1911-1913.

The display also explores the consequent development of British post-impressionist ideas and style through portraits.

This display also showcases three important portraits purchased in recent times by the National Portrait Gallery.

Tailored on the major members of the group, the display is an opportunity to look at this group of artists from a different point of view.

In 1908 critic Frank Rutter created the “Allied Artists Association” (AAA), a group separate from the Royal Academy artistic societies and inspired to the French “Salon des Indépendants”.

Many of the artists who became part of the Camden Town Group exhibited with the AAA.

The painter Walter Sickert, whose presence and example were motivating forces for the group, rented several studios in Camden, the area of north-west London, where the group often gathered.

According to Bayes the group was titled ‘Camden Town’ because Sickert declared that “the district had been so watered with his tears that something important must sooner or later spring from its soil”.

The members list was closed to 16 as follow: Walter Sickert, Robert Bevan, Malcolm Drummond, Harold Gilman, Charles Ginner, Spencer Frederick Gore, James Dickson Innes, Augustus John, Henry Lamb, Wyndham Lewis, J.B. Manson, Lucien Pissarro (the son of French painter Camille Pissarro), William Ratcliffe, John Doman Turner. When Maxwell Gordon Lightfoot died, Duncan Grant replaced him.

The artists of the Camden Town Group were united by their fascination with depicting ordinary life. Their austere and ordinary subjects consisted of shabby interiors, portraits of friends and models in humble settings, domestic still-lifes and views of London streets.

Several members developed an innovative use of bold colour and fragmented brushwork. Despite some shared characteristics, the members of the group embraced a range of approaches and subsequently developed divergent styles.

The three portraits shown at the Gallery for the first time are Harold Gilman’s portrait of Spencer Gore, who was the group’s first president. A second portrait is “Supper” the Mark Gertler’s sensuous portrait of Natalie Denny, a renowned beauty, artists’ muse and, later, an influential society hostess. The third one is Gilman’s outstanding portrait of the painter Stanislawa Bevan.

The display of the two portraits of Stanislawa Bevan, one by Gilman with another one by Robert Bevan, is of particular importance. During her lifetime Stanislawa Bevan was prevented from joining the Camden Town Group because she was a woman. This display now recognises her as a key figure in the circle of artists.

National Portrait Gallery acquired these three new portraits through the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme that enables taxpayers to transfer important works of art, and other heritage objects, into public ownership while paying Inheritance Tax. The taxpayer is given the full open market value of the item.

The Acceptance in Lieu scheme is administered by MLA on behalf of the Government and it is one of the most important means of enriching collections of public museums, libraries and archival offices.

In this instance, the executors of the estate of Natalie Bevan offered the portraits on condition that the works were allocated to the National Portrait Gallery.

The Camden Town Group involvement with ordinary life and experimentation with new means of expression left a significant artistic legacy in Britain.

Published for: www.italoeuropeo.co.uk

Direct link: http://www.italoeuropeo.com/entertaiment/arts/-beyond-the-camden-town-group./

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Written by davidfranchi

December 11, 2010 at 1:53 am

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