“The Child is father of the Man” (William Wordsworth, 1802)

Picture: Cambrian Road, Richmond (1913-14), by Spencer Frederick Gore

My post of 8/12/18 mentioned Spencer Frederick “Freddy” Gore and the Camden Town Group. The Tate’s note on Gore assesses him as in many ways the Group’s most important member.

During his time at the Slade School of Fine Art (1896-99), Gore made lasting friendships with Harold Gilman, Augustus John, Wyndham Lewis, William Orpen, and Albert Rutherston.

In 1904, Freddy’s father, the former Wimbledon tennis champion Spencer William Gore, abandoned his family, having run into business difficulties. The young artist’s uncle, Charles Gore, theologian and Bishop of Oxford, told him that he must give up painting to support his mother and sister; Freddy aimed rather to earn his living as a painter.

In 1909, Gore moved to 31, Mornington Crescent, close to Walter Sickert at No 6. He had met Sickert in Northern France, through Albert Rutherston, and they remained firm friends for the rest of Gore’s short life.

Each acted as best man to the other’s bridegroom. Spencer Gore married Mary Joanna “Molly” Kerr, a dancer from Edinburgh, in January 1912. They had two children: Margaret Elizabeth, born in the year of their marriage, and Frederick John Pym, born the following year.

In the summer of 1913, the artist and his wife and daughter moved to 6, Cambrian Road, near Richmond Park. (The Cambrian Road Gate was to be constructed during World War I for access to the South African Military Hospital, newly built in Richmond Park. When the hospital was demolished in 1925, the entrance was made permanent and public as a pedestrian gate.) Frederick was born early in that first November in Richmond.

Gore painted a series of thirty two landscapes in the Park. It’s thought that his painting outdoors in the cold and wet of the winter months brought on the pneumonia which resulted in his death on 27th March, 1914, two months before his 36th birthday.

When Frederick grew up, he went to Trinity College, Oxford, to read philosophy, but attended the Ruskin School of Art, where Albert Rutherston was Master, almost daily. Rutherston guided young Gore towards a career in art; he would go on to be head of the painting department at St Martin’s School of Art between 1951 and 1979.

Gore’s last solo exhibition was at the Richmond Hill Gallery in January 2009. He died on 31st August, 2009, aged 95. Tim Hilton wrote in his obituary that he “until very late in life was a star at any party…because of his devotion to Russian folk dancing. Sometimes wearing a top hat, Fred in action was an amazing sight. He said that dancing was as much in his blood as was painting.”. His second wife, Connie, introduced him to flamenco dancing.

Hilton also wrote that while Gore revered his father’s memory and for many years was a guardian of his reputation, he “never knew his father”. One likes to think that the weeks between 8th November, 1913, and 27th March, 1914, leave room to doubt that surmise.

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