MODERN PAINTERS: THE CAMDEN TOWN GROUP Tate Britain LONDON ****
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. …