Spencer Frederick Gore (1878-1914)
Tennis at Mornington Crescent Gardens - SOLD
Signed S F GORE and with studio stamp lower right; inscribed by Harold Gilman: 'Painted by S.F. Gore in 1909/Tennis in Mornington Crescent/Gardens’. Signed ‘S.F. Gore./(93)(a)' on a label attached to the stretcher
Oil on canvas
50.8 x 61 cm (20 x 24 in)
Provenance: Lefevre Gallery, London; Mrs F.A. Girling, her sale; Sotheby's, London, 13 March 1974, lot 40.
Spencer Frederick Gore studied painting in London at the Slade School of Fine Art, where he was a contemporary of Harold Gilman. Influenced by the Post-Impressionists, he was involved with the New English Art Club, was co-founder and first president of the Camden Town Group and a member of the London Group. He died aged only 36.
From 1909 until 1912, Gore rented a front room at 31 Mornington Crescent from the local vicar where he lived and painted. He breakfasted in the family sitting-room downstairs. A number of pictures were composed here, showing interiors and, as with the present composition, showing the gardens. Gore painted tennis subjects a number of times, both in Mornington Crescent and Hertingfordbury. His father had been a sportsman and winner of the first Lawn Tennis Championship at Wimbledon (see F. Farmar, exhibition catalogue, The Painters of Camden Town 1905-1920, London, Christie's, 1988, p. 91).
In 'A Perfect Modern' (New Age, 9 April 1914), published after Gore's death, Gore's great friend Sickert wrote, "There was a few years ago a month of June which Gore verily seems to have used as if he had known that it was to be for him the last of its particularly fresh and sumptuous kind. He used it to look down on the garden of Mornington Crescent. The trained trees rise and droop in fringes, like fountains, over the little well of greenness and shade where parties of young people are playing at tennis. The backcloth is formed by the tops of the brown houses of the Hampstead Road, and the liver coloured tiles of the Tube Station." The "well of greenness" was replaced in 1926 by the building originally erected for the Carreras cigarette factory (see W. Baron, Perfect Moderns: A History of the Camden Town Group, London, 2000, p. 118).
Dr Wendy Baron has written of the labels on this picture: "We can assess Gore's production of paintings with considerable accuracy from their 'Gilman labels'. After Gore's sudden death, his widow and Gilman sorted out all the paintings which remained in his studio. It had been Gore's practice to sign his work when it sold, but seldom to sign unsold work. Therefore they stamped each work with the artist's name ('S.F. GORE' within a boxed outline, as in the present painting). They also placed descriptive handwritten labels on the back of each painting, numbered according to the presumed chronology of his work. An 'a' was added to the number if Mrs Gore and Gilman held the painting to be of particular importance – as in the present work. Sadly many of these labels were removed by owners before their purport was appreciated. Happily, the artist's son kept a notebook in which he listed the works known to him, with their 'Gilman numbers'.