Lot 22
  • 22

Spencer Frederick Gore

60,000 - 80,000 GBP
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  • Spencer Frederick Gore
  • The Music Hall (Lady with a Dulcimer)
  • oil on canvas
  • 40.5 by 30.5cm.; 16 by 12in.


Redfern Gallery, London, whence purchased, June 1944, and thence by descent to the present owner


The canvas is unlined and appears to be providing a good sound support. When viewed from the verso, a small patch is visible in the lower right quadrant (in the area of the lady's head in the left foreground). There is a faint stretcher mark running across the top of the canvas and another faint ridge in the canvas running horizontally at the height of the orchestra. The paint surface appears to be in lovely fresh original condition, though the work would undoubtedly benefit from a professional clean. Inspection under UV light reveals one small spot of old retouching (less than 1cm. diameter) in the patched area mentioned above. Presented unglazed in a decorative plaster moulded frame - there are cracks in the corners and various losses to the moulding have occurred. Though structurally sound, the work would benefit form re-presentation.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Outings to the music hall were amongst Gore's favourite pastimes. Given his close association with Sickert from 1906-1908, it might appear that his interest stemmed from the older painter's ongoing enthusiasm for music hall subjects, however, as his son Frederick Gore has pointed out, the Gore family already had several links to the theatre world. Gore's uncles ran the theatre groups The Old Stagers and Izingari whilst Gore himself took part in amateur dramatics.  Between 1903 - 1912, he executed between 30-40 works of theatre subjects and more significantly, his first treatment of the theme The Masked Ball (Private Collection) was executed in 1903, the year before Gore met Sickert in Dieppe in 1904. 

During their close friendship, Gore and Sickert frequently visited Sickert's favourite music hall, the Bedford, and Gore absorbed Sickert's method of sketching furiously during performances and working his drawings into finished works back in the calmer atmosphere of his own studio; a preliminary drawing for the present work is now in the Leeds University Collection. Gore would most certainly have been inspired by Sickert's music hall subjects from the 1880s with their Degas inspired back lighting and vivid handling. He would also have absorbed the organisational composition of works such as Kate O'Grady You're a Lady (see Baron, Sickert, Paintings and Drawings, Yale New Haven and London, 2006, no.44, illustrated p.165) and Sam Collins's Music Hall Islington Green (1888, see Baron, ibid., no.45, illustrated p.170) where the stage is placed directly across the centre of picture plane with a view over the theatre audience. The device of highlighting the silhouettes of the audience against the stage light became one of Gore's favourite arrangements (see for example, fig.1, Stage Sunrise, The Alhambra, c.1908-1909, Private Collection) and in the present work, the viewer is literally placed within the audience, seated in the second row directly behind the orchestra pit. During the first decade of the 20th century, Sickert turned his attention to focus on the audience themselves (see for example, the oblique angle adopted to focus on the spectators in Noctes Ambrosianae, 1906, Coll. Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Nottinghamwhilst Gore's primary focus, evident in the present work, remained on the performers themselves.

By 1909, Gore's favourite music hall was The Alhambra on Leicester Square where he had a regular seat on Mondays and Tuesdays costing 2/6d. The Alhambra was particularly well known for its more daring acrobatics and its opulently presented ballets which appealed to Gore's sense of colour and spectacle.  The rich textures and bold tones of the curtains and costumes at the Alhambra are clearly evident in the brightly coloured hues of the present work and constrast sharply with Sickert's more muted palette of darker tones in his music hall subjects of the same period such as L'Eldorado (c.1906, Coll. Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham). It is significant that none of Gore and Sickert's Camden Town peers were particularly fond of music hall subjects and, as Wendy Baron has suggested, Gore's particular love for the music hall may have contributed to his particularly close friendship with Sickert.