In the first of these two articles looking at the short career and paintings of Spencer Gore (1878–1914), first president of the Camden Town Group, I showed examples from the start of his professional career to his marriage and influence by paintings of Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin in 1911.
In the same year, as president of the sixteen elected members of the Camden Town Group, Gore joined their meetings every Saturday afternoon in rooms on the first floor of Sickert’s studio at 19 Fitzroy Street, Camden Town, in north London. Living with his wife in their first floor flat at 2 Houghton Place, just off Mornington Crescent, he had but a short walk to those meetings.
This view of The Fig Tree from about 1912 shows the garden next door, and is one of a series he made in different seasons and lighting conditions, just as had become popular among the French Impressionists twenty years before.
Gore’s view of Houghton Place (1912) in fact shows the adjacent Ampthill Square. Together with Houghton Place, these were demolished in 1968, and replaced by a tower block known as Ampthill Estate.
In August 1912, Gore and his heavily pregnant wife Mollie moved to Letchworth Garden City, where they kept Harold Gilman’s house at 100 Wilbury Road while he was in Scandinavia, following the break-up of his marriage. During this stay, Mollie gave birth to their first child, before the family moved back to Camden Town in London in November 1912. Over those few months Gore’s style changed markedly, under the influence of Fauvism and Cubism. His forms became simplified and emboldened as he modernised from his early Impressionism.
The differences are clear in Gore’s Letchworth from 1912, which is thought to be on Norton Common, a wooded area to the north of Letchworth.
The Cinder Path (1912) shows a different view of the countryside at the edge of Letchworth, the dark grey path here being made from industrial waste ‘cinders’, a cheap and popular material for footpaths and running tracks. This was one of few British paintings exhibited in Roger Fry’s Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition at the end of that year.
Presumably at some time in the late summer of 1912, Gore walked part of The Icknield Way, shown here in this Fauvist view from the same year. This is an ancient trackway which runs from Wiltshire to Norfolk, following the chalk downs of the Berkshire Downs and Chiltern Hills, where he most probably made sketches of this view of sunset.
The Beanfield, Letchworth (1912) is even more radical in its simplification of forms and high chroma. Gore apparently told Gilman that “the colour found in natural objects (in the field of beans) is collected into patterns”.
The following year, 1913, the Camden Town Group merged with the Fitzroy Street Group and Vorticists to form the London Group, which continues to operate with artist leadership, and an annual open exhibition.
Gore also painted mundane domestic interiors such as The Gas Cooker (1913), which shows his wife Mollie in the tiny kitchen of their flat in Houghton Place. Soon after that, Gore and his family moved to 6 Cambrian Road, Richmond, far from Camden Town and close to the Cambrian Gate entrance to Richmond Park.
His view of Cambrian Road, Richmond (1913-14) shows the area, apparently in autumn of 1913.
At some time during that winter, probably in early 1914, Gore painted this view of Richmond Park. One of about twenty-five canvases he painted of the park during that winter, it marks a retreat from the stark geometric form he had developed during his stay in Letchworth. He is believed to have painted all of these en plein air, which is a feat in itself during the British winter.
Tragically, in March 1914, Gore fell ill, developed pneumonia, and died just a couple of months short of his thirty-sixth birthday.
Robert Upstone (ed) (2008), Modern Painters: The Camden Town Group, Tate Publishing. ISBN 978 1 85437 781 4.