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Creator:
Spencer Frederick Gore, 1878–1914, British
Title:

Ballet Scene from "On the Sands"

Date:
1910
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
Support (PTG): 16 × 20 inches (40.6 × 50.8 cm) and Frame: 20 × 24 inches (50.8 × 61 cm)
Inscription(s)/Marks/Lettering:

Signed, lower left: "S. F. GORE" [in a rectangle]

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
B1983.11.2
Classification:
Paintings
Collection:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
audience | ballerinas | ballet | conductor (musician) | dancers | genre subject | hall | interior | leisure | musicians | orchestra (ensemble) | performance | performers | proscenium | proscenium arch | set (architectural element) | spectators | stage
Access:
On view in the galleries
Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:5051
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Spencer Gore frequented London’s music halls and theaters from an early age. The Alhambra Theatre of Varieties in Leicester Square, which boasted a lavish "oriental" interior, features in at least three of his paintings. In this work, two dancers in gypsy dress perform a scene from a comic ballet, but the focus is as much on the orchestra as it is on gaudy action of the stage. Although reminiscent of compositions by his contemporary Walter Sickert, Gore’s bright palette and use of flat, decorative patches of color, speak to his growing interest in the paintings of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin, whose work had been shown in Roger Fry’s exhibition, Manet and the Post-Impressionists, that same year.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2020



Spencer Gore frequented London’s music halls and theaters from an early age. The Alhambra Theatre of Varieties in Leicester Square, which boasted a lavish “oriental” interior, features in at least three of his paintings. In this work, two dancers in gypsy dress perform a scene from a comic ballet, but the focus is as much on the orchestra as it is on gaudy action of the stage. Although reminiscent of compositions by his contemporary Walter Sickert, Gore’s bright palette and use of flat, decorative patches of color, speak to his growing interest in the paintings of Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin.

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016
Between 1905 and 1912 Spencer Gore painted numerous scenes of music halls. Here he shows a moment from the little-known ballet On the Sands, the plot of which centered on the perils of a runaway schoolgirl; the characters ranged from naughty Eton schoolboys to colorful gypsies and sailors, some of whom can be seen on stage in this scene. On the Sands was performed in September 1910 at the Alhambra, one of the larger, more elegant music halls in central London. Built in 1883 in Leicester Square, the Alhambra was named after the citadel and palace built at Granada by the Moorish kings in the twelfth century. Every detail, such as the highly gilt piers of the proscenium and the brightly colored, decorative geometric inlays of the balcony boxes, evokes the lush, exotic beauty of such architecture, a style that turn-of-the-century audiences considered magnificently decadent. Despite its aura of sketchy immediacy and its appearance of having been painted on the spot, the painting was carefully completed in his studio from a series of drawings. Gore was a frequent visitor to the Alhambra balcony; a contemporary remarked that he was "always in the same seat, taking sights with thumb and pencil at the uplifted legs of the ballerinas."1 Of four known sketches for this composition, two are studies of the figures on stage; the third represents the elaborate architecture of the stage and box facing his seat; and the fourth, the entire composition as it appears in the oil. Clearly he used this last preparatory drawing (squared-up so as to be transferred easily to canvas) to paint the final picture. His meticulous process of working up the painting from a series of sketches lends to the composition a geometric formality that ultimately undermines the overall spontaneity of the scene: the highly patterned surface and the linear definition of the composition seem to immobilize the figures -especially the two dancing gypsies at center stage-in spite of their shimmering costumes and animated gestures. Gore preferred to depict the glittering scenes on the stages of the larger, more decorative music halls such as the Alhambra, as opposed to those in the dingier, seamier locales frequented by his mentor and colleague Walter Sickert (who had been dubbed in the 1880s "Painter-in-Ordinary to the London music hall"2). Gore's interest in painting theatrical scenes had been influenced by the older painter's fascination with music halls, but he concentrates on the festive, colorful side of the theater. Both artists were drawn to the compositional challenges inherent in two-dimensional representations of events seen onstage and to the strange artificial effects of stage lighting. The work of each has antecedents in Degas's scenes of café-concerts from the 1870s, but unlike Degas and Sickert, Gore tends-as in this image -to capture the hot and vibrant atmosphere of the stage and theater through a speckled, nearly pointilliste, type of color and brushwork. Sickert himself admitted that he looked to Gore when trying to observe color in shadows.3 By the time he painted this picture, Gore had joined Sickert as a leader of a diverse group of painters known as the Fitzroy Street Group, a name referring to their meeting place in one of London's bohemian quarters. Gore was a remarkable link figure between the splintering factions of the modern art scene of pre-war London. As a leader of the Fitzroy Street Group and later the Camden Town Group, a member of the jury of the New English Art Club, and an exhibitor at Roger Fry's second Post-Impressionist exhibition, he crossed boundaries more freely than any of his contemporaries.

Julia Marciari-Alexander

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden, paintings from the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, p. 176, no. 72

Revisiting Traditions [BAC 20th century painting & sculpture] (Yale Center for British Art, 2002-04-30 - 2005-05-18) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Bloomsbury Contemporaries (Yale Center for British Art, 2000-05-20 - 2000-09-03) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

20th Century Paintings and Sculpture (Yale Center for British Art, 2000-01-27 - 2000-04-30) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Art Gallery of South Australia, 1998-09-16 - 1998-11-15) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Queensland Art Gallery, 1998-07-15 - 1998-09-06) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1998-05-01 - 1998-07-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 106-107, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Frederick Gore, Spencer Frederick Gore (1878-1914), catalogue , Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London, 1983, no. 10, NJ18 G583 G67 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden, paintings from the Yale Center for British Art , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, p. 176, no. 72, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Paul Mellon's Legacy, a passion for British art. [large print labels] , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 1, N5220 M552 +P381 2007, Mellon Shelf (YCBA) [YCBA]


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