Camden Town Group Paintings Come to Messums Wiltshire


A Very British Collection
Until Sunday 7 July

A pop-up exhibition of important paintings by memebers of the Camden Town Group is on show in the Long Gallery until Sunday.

This collection comes directly from one source and represents one man’s lifetime obsession with the Camden Town Group. Christopher Mason-Watts has been collecting since he was four years old. He began with the colourful little picture cards that appeared in the boxes of Brook Bond tea. He bought his first artwork when he was seventeen and his first serious purchase was a pocket sized painting by Walter Sickert, bought when he was twenty three, it cost him almost a third of his annual salary. He has loved the Camden Town Group since he first discovered their work as a teenager and it was this group that he focused much of his collecting efforts towards. Though they held only three exhibitions between 1911 and 1912, the Camden Town Group was one of the most vital, exciting and well-known collectives of the twentieth-Century British artists.

Upon Sickert’s return to London from Venice in 1905, Harold Gilman, Frederick Spencer Gore, Lucien Pissarro (son of French Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro), Augustus John, Henry Lamb, J.B. Manson, Robert Bevan, Walter Bayes, and Charles Ginner, all recent visitors to Paris, assembled unofficially at Sickert’s studio. There they engaged in lively discussions about the developments in contemporary French art. Their meetings brought a sense of French bohemianism into the English art world of the time. When the critic Frank Rutter joined the group in 1908, he proposed that the group organize itself after the French Salon des Indépendants. They thus formed the Allied Artists Association, completely independent of the established art societies such as the Royal Academy. The association held its exhibits of French and English Post-Impressionism at the Royal Albert Hall. In 1911 Sickert’s circle officially became the Camden Town Group. At the three important exhibitions held at the Carfax Gallery and sponsored by the Camden Town Group in the years 1911 and 1912, early French Fauve and Cubist paintings were introduced to the public.

The Camden Town artists knew the Impressionist technique well but were also open to the influence of Post-Impressionists such as Paul Gauguin and Paul Cézanne. Because the group was primarily interested in pictorial structure, it particularly turned to Cézanne for inspiration. Their subject matter was derived from the everyday life of an English industrial town. Despite a somewhat expressive use of colour, their paintings remained representational and realistic, reflecting an interpretation of a modern aesthetic different from the more formally daring developments emerging in Paris at the same time. The Camden Town Group was absorbed in 1913 by the London Group, a combination of several smaller groups of contemporary English artists.

Works in the Long Gallery include those by Walter John Bayes, Harold Gilman, Sir Robin Philipson (pictured above) Wendela Boreel, Percy Wyndham Lewis, James Bolivar Manson, Therese Lessore and Sylvia Gosse.

For more information on the full collection, visit our Messums London website

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