The Garden Path, Garth House, Spencer Gore (c.1910)
At a glance
Artist: Spencer Gore
Date: c. 1910
Materials: Oil on canvas
Acquisition: Hussey Bequest, Chichester District Council (1985)
This serene view of a rose garden painted in the afternoon light, with a gravel path extending into woodland beyond, was painted at Garth House, Hertingfordbury by Spencer Frederick Gore. This was home to the artist’s mother, Amy Gore, who had moved to the property in 1904. Gore visited Garth House for extended periods between 1907 and 1910, working in the garden to produce images of nature that contrast with the urban scenes that he painted in London.
Gore was among a talented cohort of students who studied at the Slade School of Fine Art during the 1890s. This group of students was described as the ‘first crisis of brilliance’ at the school by the drawing master Henry Tonks. Gore’s contemporaries at the Slade included the siblings Augustus and Gwen John, Harold Gilman, William Orpen, Ambrose McEvoy, Wyndham Lewis and Albert Rutherston. In 1904, Rutherston introduced Gore to the slightly older artist Walter Sickert who was predominantly working and living in Dieppe at this period. The influence of Sickert’s impressionistic style of painting can be seen in The Garden Path.
After meeting Sickert, Gore gravitated towards a group of artists based on Fitzroy Street in London that included Gilman, Lucien Pissarro and Charles Ginner, and where Sickert rented James Abbott McNeill Whistler’s former studio at 8 Fitzroy Street. It was at this time in 1907 that Gore became a founding member of the Fitzroy Street group, that later evolved into the Camden Town Group. Gore was the first president of the Camden Town Group which was founded in 1911 and included 16 male artists – women were prevented from joining.
Following Roger Fry’s ground-breaking exhibition Manet and the Post-Impressionists which was hosted by the Grafton Gallery in 1910, Spencer Gore’s paintings became increasingly influenced by the Post-Impressionists. This culminated in his work being selected for the English section of Fry’s second Post-Impressionist exhibition in 1912. One of the exhibited paintings by Gore was The Cinder Path (Tate) which, compositionally, with its elongated path, is similar to The Garden Path.
As seen in this work, Gore enjoyed working outside, or en plein air. In the last few months of his life, he produced 32 landscape paintings of Richmond Park during which time he is thought to have caught pneumonia from working outside in the wet and cold winter months. Gore died at the age of 35 and was described by his contemporaries as a rare talent and a rare friend.