Camden Town Group
British Impressionist Movement Founded by Walter Sickert.

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Mornington Crescent (1908)
By Walter Sickert. Private Collection.

British Painting: Contemporary.
Best English Painters.

Camden Town Group (Fl.1911-13)

This was a loose association of British Impressionist painters, named after a drab working class area of North London, which was founded by Walter Sickert (1860-1942) in 1911. Its subject matter was everyday urban life, which it depicted in an Impressionist style. Although the association lasted only two years, many Camden Town Group artists had been painting in this manner long before the group started, and indeed continued to do so for years after it ended. In this sense, the term "Camden Town Group" reflects a particular British style of Impressionism which lasted from roughly 1905 to 1920. The Group itself held three exhibitions at the Carfax Gallery, in 1911-12, all of which were financial flops. In 1913, when the gallery declined to host any further shows, the association merged with other groups, including the Vorticism group, to form the London Group. The first exhibition of this new body - held in Brighton, in December 1913 - was publicised under the name Camden Town Group, although this did not reflect the variety of exhibits. (For background material, see Characteristics of Impressionist Painting 1870-1910.)

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Camden Town Group Members

There was an agreed maximum of 16 members. These included: Walter Bayes (1869-1956), Robert Bevan (1865-1925), Malcolm Drummond (1880-1945), Harold Gilman (1876-1919), Charles Ginner (1878-1952), Spencer Gore (1878-1914) (President), James Dickson Innes (1887-1914), Augustus John (1878-1961), Henry Lamb (1883-1960), Percy Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957), James Bolivar Manson (1879-1945) (Secretary), Lucien Pissarro (1863-1944), William Ratcliffe (1870-1955), Walter Sickert, and John Dolman Turner (1873-1938) and Maxwell Gordon Lightfoot (1886-1911) who was replaced, after his resignation and suicide, by Duncan Grant (1885-1978).

Other 20th century painters associated with Camden Town painting in a wider sense, include: Sylvia Gosse (1881-1968), Nina Hamnett (1890-1956), Therese Lessore (1884-1945), Albert Rothenstein (1881-1953), William Rothenstein (1872-1945) and Ethel Sands (1873-1962).



From the beginning, Sickert was the inspiration and driving force behind this group of British Impressionists. A pupil of Whistler and Degas, he returned to Britain in 1905 after spending much of the previous two decades on the Continent. Keen to establish a type of Paris Salon in London for progressive artists, he held open house every Saturday at his studio in Bloomsbury. Several of his pupils and followers showcased their work at nearby 19 Fitzroy Street, causing them to be dubbed the Fitzroy Street Group. Other venues used by these painters included the Allied Artists Association and the New English Art Club. However, none of these venues proved sufficiently forward-thinking, and so the Camden Town Group was formed.

Painting Style

There was no single Camden Town style. Members of the group varied considerably in their ambitions, subject matter and painting methods. Even so, their compositions are typically small-scale, under-stated, and depict everyday urban scenes and events. Thus the Camden Town idiom embraces genre scenes, streetscapes, bed-sit interiors and music hall scenes, casual portraits, nudes and even still lifes. Influenced by Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, artists adopted strong flat colours, while their brushwork was typically uninhibited with broad, broken touches. Due to urban redevelopment and World War II bomb damage, their pictorial chronicle of life in London before and during World War I has an independent historical value all of its own. Artistically, it was - along with Vorticism - the most influential movement in British painting in the first half of the 20th century. The latest showcase of its work was held in 2008 at the Tate Britain in London. The show featured works by Bayes, Bevan, Drummond, Gilman, Ginner, Gore, Pissarro, Ratcliffe, Turner and Lightfoot.

Most Important Painters

The most important and distinctive contributors to the style of the Camden Town Group - all strong followers of French painting methods - were Sickert, Bevan, Gilman, Ginner and Gore.

Walter Sickert, whose artistic career spanned over 60 years and who influenced a large number of his contemporaries, remains one of the great British figurative painters. His series of Camden Town female nudes, and his picture Ennui (1914, Tate) are some of the masterpieces of Camden Town Group painting. Robert Bevan - noted for his Pointillism (a form of Divisionism) London street scenes, landscapes and impasto work - worked alongside Renoir, Serusier and Gauguin before returning to London. A founder-member of the group, he then helped to form the London Group and, afterwards, the Cumberland market group, before being elected to the New English Art Club in 1922. Spencer Gore - a pupil of Sickert and influenced also by Lucien Pissarro - became one of the first Camden Town painters to move away from an Impressionist-method to one that approximates the appearance of stained glass, before succumbing to the more classical structures of Cezanne. Harold Gilman was influenced in particular by Velazquez and Whistler, as well as Sickert. His deep understanding of Post-Impressionism led him to use bolder colours, thicker impasto and much more 'fixed' compositional designs. Charles Ginner, greatly influenced by Vincent Van Gogh, resisted all academic tendencies surrounding English Post-Impressionism, preferring to go his own way. His signature motif, was a small, regular dab of thick paint, which - not unlike the style of his French contemporary Edouard Vuillard (1868-1940) - lends his paintings the appearance of intricate embroidery.

Selected Paintings

Pictures by members of the Camden Town Group can be seen in several of the best art museums in Britain. Here are a few selected examples.

Walter Sickert
Minnie Cunningham at the Old Bedford (1892) Tate, London
La Hollandaise (c.1906) Tate, London
Mornington Crescent (1908) Private Collection
Ennui (1914) Tate, London

Spencer Gore
The Mad Pierrot Ballet, the Alhambra (1905) Anthony d'Offay Gallery
Cricket Match (1908–9) Wakefield Art Gallery
The Beanfield (1912) Tate, London
Letchworth (1912) Tate, London
The Cinder Path (1912) Tate, London

Charles Ginner
The Cafe Royal (1911) Tate, London
Piccadilly Circus (1912) Tate, London

Harold Gilman
Edwardian Interior (c.1900-5) Tate, London
Interior (1917–18) British Council

Robert Bevan
Horse Sale at the Barbican (1913) Tate, London

See also: Best Impressionist Paintings.

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