Charles GinnerVictoria Embankment Gardens 1912

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Artwork details

Artist
Charles Ginner (1878‑1952)
Title
Victoria Embankment Gardens
Date 1912
MediumOil paint on canvas
Dimensionssupport: 664 x 461 mm frame: 788 x 590 x 50 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition Purchased 1984
Reference
T03841
Not on display

Catalogue entry

The Houses of Parliament rise in the distant background of Ginner’s painting, composed from an unusual viewpoint in Victoria Embankment Gardens. The full foliage of summer obscures the buildings, including Big Ben, Victoria Tower with a flag at its pinnacle, the golden dome of the tower at Scotland Yard and the turrets of the Palace of Westminster on the lower left. Dwarfed in the foreground, a woman in a yellow hat sits on a park bench. Ginner’s expressive handling of thick paint with heavy outlines was an experiment he perhaps never repeated and may have been influenced by his appreciation of Vincent van Gogh.
Charles Ginner 1878–1952
Victoria Embankment Gardens
1912
Oil paint on canvas
660 x 455 mm
Inscribed ‘C. GINNER’ in red and blue oil paint bottom right
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1984
T03841

Entry

The third of Ginner’s pictures of the centre of London, after The Café Royal 1911 (Tate N05050) and Leicester Square 1912 (Brighton Museum and Art Gallery), this work depicts the Houses of Parliament from an unusual viewpoint in Victoria Embankment Gardens. The two highest towers are half-hidden behind foliage: Big Ben on the left and the Victoria Tower, with a flag, on the right. Below them, looking like a crown, is the tower at the north end of Scotland Yard; at the left in a gap between the trees appear two of the smaller turrets of the Palace of Westminster. None of these buildings is painted accurately in detail. In the middle ground, not easily distinguished, is Edgar Boehm’s 1884 full-length statue of William Tyndale (1484–1536, the translator of the New Testament from Greek into English), while in the foreground a woman with a large yellow hat sits on a bench, possibly reading a book. The picture was painted in the early summer and so the buildings are partly concealed and largely upstaged by the patterning of the flower beds, bushes, trees and, behind everything, the clouds. There are no shadows to indicate the time of day, but the clock face of Big Ben might read three o’clock.
Charles Ginner 'Neuville Lane' 1911
Fig.1
Charles Ginner
Neuville Lane 1911
© Estate of Charles Ginner Photo © Christie’s Images Ltd
The style of this painting, with heavy outlines around islands of green, blue and yellow, was a departure for Ginner, and not repeated so far as is known. He had tried it out for the first time the summer before in France in a small oil sketch, Neuville Lane 1911 (fig.1).1 That landscape mainly shows foliage, with areas of colour separated by thick outlines placed beside each other like pieces of a jigsaw. There is a small building concealed within the foliage, as are the buildings in Victoria Embankment Gardens.
In his appreciation of Harold Gilman, Ginner mentions that they discussed the paintings by Vincent van Gogh they had seen in a private collection in Paris, that of the brothers Josse and Gaston Bernheim.2 The visit was most probably in the early autumn of 1910.3 Admission to the private collection was probably arranged with Félix Fénéon (1861–1944), the critic and dealer who ran Bernheim-Jeune, the contemporary part of the commercial gallery on the Boulevard de la Madeleine. It is evident that Ginner was then already familiar with van Gogh’s painting, and was showing it to Gilman.
The art historian Wendy Baron considers that Ginner’s change in style in Victoria Embankment Gardens resulted from a renewed interest in van Gogh following this visit,4 and that he probably deliberately studied and imitated the Dutch artist’s painting as a way of escaping from the laborious application of paint in works like The Café Royal (Tate N05050) of the previous year. But Neuville Lane and Victoria Embankment Gardens should also be placed in the context of paintings by Maurice Denis which had been shown in Brighton in 1910,5 and which Ginner would have known from his time in Paris. The decorative, swirling lines of Ginner’s landscapes are also linked to the illustrations for magazines that he had drawn in the early 1900s.6 The Times reviewer wrote in 1954: ‘the painting exhibited in which he follows van Gogh most faithfully, the “Victoria Embankment Gardens” of 1912, emerges as a piece of pure decoration with a strong flavour of art nouveau’.7
Charles Ginner 'List of Paintings, Drawings, Etc. of Charles Ginner. Book I' 1910-18
Fig.2
Charles Ginner
List of Paintings, Drawings, Etc. of Charles Ginner. Book I 1910–18
The painting is recorded in Ginner’s notebooks for 1912 with no mention of any purchaser (fig.2).8 He first exhibited it in July 1912 at the Allied Artists’ Association, and had probably finished it shortly before, judging from the season depicted. The critic P.G. Konody reviewed the group exhibition at the Little Gallery in 1914, pointing out how different were the paintings by each of the Camden Town Group exhibitors, except in their colouring:
A very pleasant little show, made up of paintings of the Sickert School, or ‘Camden Town Group’, a few sculptures by Mr. Epstein and various productions of modern artistic craftsmanship has been arranged at the Little Gallery, 8 Marlborough Street, Regent Street. Some of the pictures have been seen before at other places, but there are some interesting new works by Mr. Walter Sickert, Mr. M.C. Drummond, Mr. C. Ginner and kindred spirits, most of whom look upon the world through purple glasses, which constitute the chief link between their otherwise very pronounced individualities.9
‘The sky is apocalyptic’, the art historian Richard Cork wrote in 1985 of this picture,10 considering it a precedent for the murals Ginner painted in May and June of 1912 in the Cave of the Golden Calf, a nightclub in Heddon Street, off Regent Street in London. The murals no longer exist but are known from Ginner’s studies.11 In their design Ginner played a game of hide-and-seek with the forms, showing African animals half-concealed behind trees painted in bright colours, similar to the overwhelming foliage in Victoria Embankment Gardens.
The painting was not exhibited between 1914 and Ginner’s memorial exhibition of 1953. Since no sale is recorded in his notebooks it was probably in the artist’s possession at his death in 1952. His sister Ruby Ginner Dyer inherited his pictures, and it is likely that she gave it to Anton Lock (1893–1971), who owned it at the time of the 1953 exhibition according to a note written on the stretcher. Lock was an artist and a friend who owned several of Ginner’s paintings and drawings already, and had supported him financially.12 He was a second-generation Camden Town artist in that he had been taught by both Sickert and Walter Bayes. He wrote the foreword to Ginner’s exhibition at the Leger Galleries in October 1951.
The Tate Gallery bid unsuccessfully for this painting at Christie’s on 9 June 1978, but purchased it in 1984 after an export licence was withheld by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art.

David Fraser Jenkins
May 2005

Notes

1
Tate Archive TGA 9319/1, p.XLIII. This painting is depicted in the background of Malcolm Drummond’s At the Piano c.1912 (Art Gallery of South Australia), as it belonged to Drummond. Neuville was the area of Dieppe where Walter Sickert owned a small house from about 1902 to 1911. In 1911 Sickert was living in London until he went to Neuville after his marriage in July, and it may be that he lent his house to Ginner, as he had to Harold Gilman in 1907. While staying in Dieppe in 1911 Ginner painted three large views of the town and three small oils, including Neuville Lane.
2
Charles Ginner, ‘Harold Gilman: An Appreciation’, Art and Letters, vol.2, no.4, Summer 1919, pp.129–35.
3
Frank Rutter, ‘The Work of Harold Gilman and Spencer Gore: A Definitive Survey’, Studio, vol.101, no.456, March 1931, p.208.
4
Wendy Baron, The Camden Town Group, exhibition catalogue, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven 1980, p.29.
5
An Exhibition of the Work of Modern French Artists, Brighton Public Art Galleries, June–August 1910.
6
Reproductions of three of these illustrations are in Charles Ginner 1876–1952, exhibition catalogue, Fine Art Society, London 1985 (1–3).
7
Times, 30 January 1954, p.8.
8
Tate Archive TGA 9319/1, p.LVII.
9
Observer, 22 February 1914, p.7.
10
Richard Cork, Art Beyond the Gallery in Early 20th Century England, New Haven 1985, p.71.
11
The murals are listed in his notebook as decorative panels entitled Chasing Monkeys, Birds and Indians and Tiger Hunting, Tate Archive TGA 9319/1. A photograph of the lost Tiger Hunting mural and an oil study are reproduced in Cork 1985, figs.104 and 110, pp.78 and 82–3. For more on the Cave of the Golden Calf, see Tate T00446.
12
Information from Brian Sewell, 11 September 2002.

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