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Harold Gilman, 1876–1919

Stanislawa de Karlowska [2024, YCBA]

Former Title(s):

Stanislawa de Karlowska (Mrs. Robert Bevan) [1998, Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden, exhibition catalogue]

Stanislawa de Karlowska (Mrs. Robert Polhill Bevan)

Mrs. Robert Bevan [1986, Acquisitions: The First Decade 1977-1986, Yale Center for British Art, exhibition catalogue]

ca. 1913
Materials & Techniques:
Oil on canvas
24 5/16 x 20 1/4 inches (61.8 x 51.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
artist | brushstrokes | contrast | impasto | painter | patterns | portrait | profile (figure) | stripes | texture | wallpaper | woman
Associated People:
De Karlowska, Stanislawa (1876–1952), British painter
Not on view
IIIF Manifest:

In 1914 Karlowska was one of the few women artists to be elected an original member of the London Group, an offshoot of the Camden Town Group to which Harold Gilman and Robert Bevan belonged. Karlowska exhibited regularly under her name and had a solo show at the Adams Gallery in 1935. Despite her accomplishments and the endurance she displayed in being a woman artist at the time, Karlowksa’s career was overshadowed by that of her husband, Robert Bevan, a good friend of Gilman’s.
In this painting, Gilman slots Karlowska into a flat mosaic of vibrant color. The space is compressed, fusing Karlowska firmly with the dancing wallpaper. She is asphyxiated: the air of the painting is sucked out and replaced by viscous blobs of paint. To counter the loud color and flamboyant mark-making, Karlowska sits quietly and resolutely, fighting her silent battle in what is often characterized as the polite “British” way.

Gallery label for Figuring Women - The Female in Modern British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2008-03-28 - 2008-06-08)
The Polish artist Stanislawa de Karlowska had been married to Gilman's friend and fellow Camden Town painter Robert Bevan since 1897. A painter of townscapes, interiors, and still lifes, Karlowska showed her work regularly-under her own name-throughout her life: in the exhibitions of the London Group, to which she was elected in 1914, and in 1935 in her one-woman show at the Adams Gallery. But her career was largely overshadowed by that of her husband.
In this portrait of Karlowska, one of four Gilman painted between 1910 and 1919, the artist revels in the expressive power of the paint itself. He exploits the clash of garish colors, busy patterns, and passages of thick impasto with the markedly quiet demeanor and pose of the sitter. More than an investigation of his sitter's character, the work is an exploration of paint and color.
Karlowska's profile position hinders any reading of character into her facial features, largely blocked from view and painted only summarily. Her pose relegates her to a primarily decorative status; her presence becomes analogous to the papered walls that provide the backdrop against which she sits. Her body, face, hair, and clothing allow Gilman to create lively patterns, textures, and juxtapositions of colors that are vehicles for his exploration of the play of light and color. He toys with distinctions of figure and ground, heightening the similarities in pattern and color between the sitter's bright striped chemise and those of the papered surface behind it. Her torso nearly fuses with its backdrop, the vertical stripe on her sleeve echoing the red-, yellow-, and green-dotted stripe on the wall behind her. The overarching verticality of the image is interrupted only by the thick blotches of paint that dot the walls, her sleeve, her hair, and her face. More than a portrait, Gilman's painting resembles a carefully constructed, colorful still-life whose subject happens to be a woman. Gilman's choice of a profile pose places the image within the tradition of classical portraiture, harking back to busts of rulers on antique coins and to painted portraits of the Renaissance; profile portraits carry the most historical of associations, ultimately referring to the mythic origins of portraiture (which according to the first-century writer Pliny began with the tracing of the shadow of a man's head on a wall). Gilman's modern variation on this ancient theme is to set his profile portrait in an intimate, domestic interior.
Early in his career Gilman had been much influenced by the tonal, atmospheric compositions of Whistler, and around the time of Whistler's memorial exhibition of 1905, he painted a number of portraits evoking this by-then acknowledged modern master. Later Gilman began to exploit un-Whistlerian passages of thick impasto and a high-keyed palette as a means of expression. With this portrait of his friend and colleague, he seems to look back to the contemplative feeling of his Whistlerian paintings-his sitter's quiet attitude and composed demeanor are reminiscent of Whistler's famous painting of his mother-while still employing the charged palette of his mature style. The founder and leader of the Camden Town Group, Walter Sickert, increasingly found fault with Gilman's use of paint. In 1914 he published an article that berated the younger generation's new fondness for heavy impasto: intentional and rugged impasto…so far from producing brilliancy, covers a picture with a grey reticulation and so throws dust in the eyes of the spectator, and serves, to some extent, to veil exaggerations of colour or coarseness of drawing. It is a manner of shouting and gesticulating and does not make for expressiveness and lucidity.1
Gilman nevertheless continued in his quest to define his own style and technique. But during the last years of his short life, as if in unwitting response to Sickert's criticism, his handling did become smoother, his surfaces more even, and his colors cooler.

[1] Baron 1979, 67. 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. 178, no. 73, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA)

Figuring Women - The Female in Modern British Art (Yale Center for British Art, 2008-03-28 - 2008-06-08) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition] [Exhibition Description]

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] [Exhibition Description]

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] [Exhibition Description]

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] [Exhibition Description]

Acquisitions : The First Decade 1977-1986, Yale Center for British Art , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1986, pp. 8, 9, 14, no. 19, col. pl. 13, N590.2 A7 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Exhibition, Reid and Lefevre's, Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, vol. 83, October 1943, pp. 254, 256, pl. A, N1 B87 + OVERSIZE (YCBA) Also available online in JSTOR [YCBA]

Harold Gilman 1876-1919., Arts Council of Great Britain, London, 1981, pp. 22, 64, no. 45, NJ18 G3855 C38 (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. 178, no. 73, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Minories, The R.A. Bevan collection, Colchester, 1975, no. 69, NJ18 B4693 M55 (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 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

K. Roberts, Exhibition at Reid Gallery, Burlington Magazine, Vol. 106,no.734, May 1964, p. 244, fig. 76, N1 B87+ (YCBA) Alzo available online in JSTOR [YCBA]

Duncan Robinson, Acquisitions : The First Decade 1977 - 1986, , Burlington Magazine, vol. 128, October 1986, pp. 8, 9, 14, no. 19, color pl, 13, N1 B87 128:3 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Shorter Notes : Harold Gilman 1878-1919, Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 83,no.487, October 1943, pp. 254,256, Pl. A, N1 B87+ OVERSIZE YCBA) Also available online at JSTOR [ORBIS]

Two memorial Exhibitions, Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science and Art, vol. 128, no. 3337, October 11, 1919, p. 335, Available online in British Periodicals II Also available A88 Sa8 + Oversize (SML) [ORBIS]

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