Arts and artists

Camden Town has been home to artists through its history. An early resident in King’s Road (now 135 St Pancras Way, and with a blue plaque) was William Daniel, a painter first of India and later of the English coast. A contemporary was the much more capricious George Morland, who at times lived near Camden Town High Street (although on Lord Southampton’s land) and frequented the Mother Red Caps inn. [1]

There were artists painting in oils and watercolours and sculptors working in stone and wood.  Frederick Goodall’s house at 4 Camden Square became the studio for his younger colleague, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, and then Frank Holl (who had had his childhood in Bayham Street).

Engraving – a Camden Town expertise

Many engravers lived in Camden Town – for example, Richard Rhodes living in Gloucester Place, Samuel Freeman in Jeffreys Street, Benjamin Cranwell in College Street,[1] and the fathers of educationalist Frances Buss and scientists Oliver Heaviside and Catherine Raisin were engravers. David King Dyer, also a miniature painter, lived at 1 Canal Terrace.[2]  George Hawkins was a lithographic artist living at 116 Camden Road Villas, while John Hosmer, 103 Camden Town Villas, and Richard Dent were draughtsman – Dent was the Camden Town surveyor from 1810 to 1850. The large commercial printers Dalziel Brothers in Bayham Street and Goodalls in College Street would have employed engravers, as well as many printers and publishers more centrally in London.

[1] TNA: Rhodes:PROB11/1903/142; Freeman:PROB11/2249/141; Cranwell:PROB11/2246/237.

[2] TNA: Dyer:MS11936/558/1298304.

 

Photography emerged as practical technology in the 1850s and Camden Town with its new buildings, artisans and growing population attracted  innovators.  Photographers of national standing made technical and artistic innovations.The main streets provided studio premises. Street scenes were favoured for art photography, while portrait photography – family groups and the carte de visite – led the commercial field.

  • Valentine Blanchard had his studio at 128 Camden Road, a four-storey house beside the gardens of Brecknock Crescent, and he lived opposite at 12 Camden Cottages on Kings Road (now St Pancras Way). He made successful stereoscopic photographs of London streets in the 1860s, and then turned to portraits.
  • Francis Bedford, who lived at 22 Camden Road Villas, gained commercial success when he accompanied the Prince of Wales on a visit to Egypt and Palestine in the 1860s. His studio is described by Pritchard in a book of ‘elite photographers in Europe. (H. Baden Pritchard, The photographic studios of London, [London 1882] reprint Edinburgh 2013.)
  • Edgar Prout was born on Euston Road and married in St Pancras church. After briefly working at a studio in Regent’s Street, perhaps to learn the trade, he had his studio from 1868 at 13 Murray Street, by Camden Square, and from 1887 through to his death in 1900 at 76 St Paul’s (late Augustine’s) Road – beside the cutting of the London Midland Railway line, looking down towards St Pancras Station and Euston Road.

 

NOT the Camden Town Group

In the 1880s, Richard Sickert and others had painted in London theatres and music halls, including the Bedford on the west side of Camden Town High Street. In 1907 he brought together painters initially under the title the Fitzroy Square Group – his studio was there, near to the Westminster school of art where he taught. Already painting female nudes on beds, he entitled a series ‘The Camden Town Murder’, after a real event and sensational trial of the murder of a prostitute in St Paul’s Road (now Agar Grove). Yet for his mise-en-scéne, Sickert sought out more seedy interiors than the real house, and finally chose a back room in Warren Street. [2] The Group’s name was chosen to be controversial, for sales. From 1910, Sickert and Gore rented rooms in Mornington Crescent and set up a teaching studio, Rowland House, in Hampstead Road – both to the south of Camden Town itself. Sickert had many studios, including Kensington and Brighton, and spent much of his time in Dieppe. He lived only briefly at 81 Camden Road (since demolished) and even more briefly had a studio at 5 Witcher Place near Camden Road. Neither he, nor other artists associated of the Camden Town Group, it would appear, actually painted Camden Town.

[1] Marian Kamlish, George Morland: a London artist in eighteenth-century Camden, London [Camden History Society] 2008.

[2] Sickert ‘… rapped on endless doors, dived under greasy curtains in narrow halls, climbed rickety stairs to third floor backs … At last, however, he came upon his treasure trove. A crooked room at the top of a crooked house in Warren Street [near Fitzroy Square]’: Marjorie Lilly, Sickert: the painter and his circle, London 1971:42-3.

 

 

 

 

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