A new display at the National Portrait Gallery
marks the 100th anniversary of the formation of the Camden Town group of artists. Focusing on the leading members of the group which flourished around 1911-1912, the display also showcases three important portraits by the group recently acquired by the Gallery. Camden Town and Beyond, a display of 16 portraits, is an opportunity to take a fresh look at this significant group of artists.
Named after the area of north-west London where the painter Walter Sickert rented several studios, the Camden Town Group of artists were united by their fascination with depicting ordinary life. Their unadorned, everyday subjects included 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. The group comprised sixteen artists, including Robert Bevan, Spencer Gore, Harold Gilman, Malcolm Drummond, and their leader, Walter Sickert.
The three portraits shown at the Gallery for the first time are Harold Gilmans portrait of Spencer Gore, who was the groups first president; Supper, Mark Gertlers sensuous portrait of Natalie Denny, a celebrated beauty, artists muse and, later, an influential society hostess; and Gilmans striking portrait of the painter Stanislawa Bevan (née de Karlowska). These works were recently acquired by the Gallery through the governments Acceptance in Lieu Scheme. The display of Harold Gilmans portrait of Stanislawa Bevan, alongside another portrait of her 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 and her reputation suffered as a result. The display will now acknowledge her as a key figure in this circle of artists.
The three new portraits will be shown in the context of other portraits by and of the Camden Town Group from the Gallerys Collection to collectively survey the key figures. The display will also explore the subsequent development of British post-impressionist ideas and style through portraits by such major figures as Augustus John and Mark Gertler. A monochrome self-portrait by Walter Sickert reveals his subsequent use of black and white photographs as the basis for portraits. Despite shared characteristics, the Camden Town painters embraced a range of approaches and subsequently developed divergent styles. However, their involvement with ordinary life and experimentation with new means of expression left a significant artistic legacy in Britain.