You write the reviews: Modern Painters - The Camden Town Group, Tate Britain,London
Tuesday 01 April 2008
In the period 1911-1913, a group of British artists regularly met in Camden Town, north London, and established themselves as the vanguard of early-20th-century British art. The painters, including Walter Sickert, Harold Gilman, Charles Ginner and Spencer Gore, depicted London life in a style influenced by French Impressionism and other Modernist styles.
Tate Britain's huge retrospective of their work traces the artists' developing styles. A group dynamic exists, with Ginner's Piccadilly Circus leading to a flurry of other street scenes, while an interior of a music hall inspired a number of stage paintings. In one of these, Sickert's majestic Noctes Ambrosianae sees him turn his gaze towards the gods of a Drury Lane theatre, where the blur of faces appear like pinpricks in the dark.
Sickert's paintings are more innovative than his contemporaries. Ennui is a domestic scene showing a couple subsumed by lethargy in a dimly lit room. Despite the gloomy themes, there is a mischievous element, too; the same pair appear to be depicted in Off to the Pub, with the man resorting to alcohol to alleviate his despair.
Sickert appears to enjoy toying with Edwardian prudishness. While his colleagues portrayed demure paintings of women washing, Sickert paints bedroom scenes with his subjects openly gazing at the viewer. With the Camden Town Nudes series, which depict a contemporary murder, he adopts a more sinister theme. Indeed, his fascination with this event became the catalyst for an unlikely case identifying him as Jack the Ripper.
The exhibition captures the development of the other artists, too, with Gilman's An Eating House one of the best. In it, the artist's gaze roves above the heads of diners in a cafe, offering an outstanding example of how a painting fires the viewer's imagination by alluding to what's left out rather than what's included.
The later paintings in the show portray the devastating impact of the Great War on Britain. Even the elegant portraits of brightly lit drawing rooms are suffused with melancholy. Again, Sickert captures the mood perfectly in Brighton Pierrots, where extravagantly dressed actors perform in front of a sparse audience, many of whom are men with bandaged heads.
This engaging exhibition also includes Pathé News footage, which provides an illuminating backdrop to the social changes alluded to in the paintings.
To 5 May (020-7887 8888)
Andrew Byrne, Bank employee, London
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Mario Balotelli: Staff at arson-hit Manchester Dogs' Home convinced Liverpool striker is behind five-figure donation
- 2 Friends 20th anniversary: Alison Jackson photographs reunited cast
- 3 Friends 20th anniversary: The highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
- 4 The response to my Pizza Express review has been overwhelming, and taught me a lot about journalism
- 5 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned into a PR disaster
Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams cast in Channel 4 drama about cyber bullying
Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea's 'Booty' music video is just a load of butts
Friends 20th anniversary: Alison Jackson photographs reunited cast
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written
Friends 20th anniversary: The highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes