So far, the artists of the Camden Town Group whom I’ve covered in this series have been among its core members. Most painted domestic interiors and views of everyday life in London, the hallmarks of the group. James Dickson Innes (1887-1914) was different, as he had only recently completed his training, and painted predominantly high-chroma landscapes with a decidedly Fauvist look. Sadly, in common with several of the other promising young artists in the group, he also died far too young.
Innes was born in Llanelli, in South Wales, one of three sons of a Scottish businessman and historian. He started his art training at the Carmarthen School of Art, from where he went on scholarship to the Slade School of Art in London. He was a student there between 1905-08, a time when the teachers were British Impressionists, among them Philip Wilson Steer and Henry Tonks.
Innes soon travelled to France with the artist John Fothergill, where he painted this watercolour of Twilight in Aveyron (1908), a rural department in central southern France.
The two stayed near the village of Bozouls, where Innes made this finely detailed oil painting of South of France, Bozouls, near Rodez (1908). From there, they travelled on to Collioure, a small town on the Mediterranean coast, not far from the border with Spain. There Innes’s paintings became higher in chroma.
By 1910, Innes had become a close friend of Augustus John, who was nine years older than him and another former student at the Slade. The two travelled together, in particular to North Wales, where Innes fell in love with the Arenig Valley. The following year Innes and John were among those nominated to be among the sixteen founding members of the Camden Town Group, which they joined. That year he exhibited alongside the sculptor Eric Gill in London.
In the autumn of 1911, Innes and John travelled to Nant-Ddu in North Wales, where they stayed near Lake Bala and painted from the Arenig Valley. This watercolour of Arenig (1911) is among his early views of the area.
The view which Innes loved most was of the rugged ridge of Arenig Fawr, as seen in this oil painting of Arenig, Sunny Evening (c 1911-12). By this time his use of colour had become overtly Fauvist.
Innes visited Spain in 1912, where he painted this Spanish Landscape in oils on a wood panel.
This Landscape with a Grazing Horse is also thought to date from about 1912, but I don’t know where Innes painted this.
In the same year, Innes visited the spa town of Vernet-les-Bains, at the eastern end of the Pyrenees, in France. He painted this watercolour of Vernet in 1912, which I suspect looks south from Vernet towards the mountain peaks marking the border with Spain.
While there, he also painted Deep Twilight, Pyrenees (1912-13) in oils, again on a wooden panel.
Although probably based on an original made in front of the motif during the summer of the previous year, when Innes and John returned to North Wales, this his largest oil painting of Arenig, North Wales is thought to have been completed in his London studio in 1913, when he was at peak chroma.
In 1913, Innes and his friend Augustus John were among those whose paintings were shown at the International Exhibition of Modern Art at the 69th Regiment Armory in New York – the (in)famous Armory Show which was to prove the catalyst for modernist art in the USA. Innes visited Spain and Morocco, warm climates which were encouraged to alleviate his tuberculosis. The following year, his condition worsened, and he went to a nursing home in Kent, where he died on 22 August 1914, at the age of twenty-seven, just a few weeks after the start of the Great War.
Robert Upstone (ed) (2008), Modern Painters: The Camden Town Group, Tate Publishing. ISBN 978 1 85437 781 4.