Lot 10
  • 10

Harold Gilman

150,000 - 250,000 GBP
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  • Harold Gilman
  • Interior (Mrs Mounter)
  • signed
  • oil on canvas
  • 38 by 33cm.; 15 by 13in.
  • Executed in 1917.


Sir Louis Fergusson
Leicester Galleries, London, where acquired by Mrs Dudley Samuel, 1948, and thence by descent
Their sale, Christie's London, 11th March 1994, lot 59, where acquired by David Bowie


Johannesburg, Kunsgalery, Empire Exhibition, 1936, cat. no.424;
New York, World's Fair, 1939, with tour to Boston and Chicago;
London, Leicester Galleries, The Collection of Sir Louis Fergusson, September 1948, cat. no.42, illustrated p.13.


Percy Wyndham Lewis and Louis F. Fergusson, Harold Gilman An Appreciation, London, Chatto & Windus, 1919, p.30 and 93, illustrated;
Andrew Causey, Harold Gilman 1876 - 1919 (exh. cat.), Arts Council, 1981, p.80.


Original canvas. The canvas undulates very slightly in places, but otherwise appears sound. There are one or two extremely fine lines of craquelure in one or two places, most apparent to the figure's right shoulder, only visible upon extremely close inspection. There may be one or two tiny losses to the impasto tips in places. There is a small instance of minor frame abrasion towards the right side of the lower horizontal edge. There is some light surface dirt. Subject to the above, the work appears to be in excellent overall condition, with bright and vivid colours throughout. Ultraviolet light reveals a speck of old retouching to the upper left pane of the window. The work is presented in an ornate gilt frame. Please telephone the department on +44 (0) 207 293 6424 if you have any questions regarding the present work.
"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

Please note that the Jerwood Gallery, Hastings would like to include this painting  for a forthcoming retrospective of Harold Gilman’s work in Spring 2019.

At first glance this jewel of a painting, an essay in stillness and quietude, may not seem a revolutionary work of art. But radical it is, both in its use of colour as the main driver of narrative and through its subject: the drab and the everyday, with a char-lady as sitter. This is a painting for the modern world, made as the old order was being torn apart by the unprecedented horror of the First World War.

When Interior (Mrs Mounter) was painted in 1917, the wider British art scene – save for a very small (mainly London-based) avant-garde – was still reeling from the impact of Roger Fry’s two controversial exhibitions of French Post-Impressionism, held in London in 1910 and 1912, considered by many as an outrage against good taste. Gilman, on the other hand, had already seen what Paris had to offer, having visited in 1910 when he immersed himself in the work of Gauguin, Cezanne, Matisse, Signac and, above all, van Gogh. In Interior (Mrs Mounter) the influence of van Gogh is clear: van Gogh the realist, more than the expressionist of his later years, a painter of reality where the underlying emotion is made visible through high-voltage and ‘unreal’ colour.  The shaft of light that cuts across the back wall is as heavy and permanent as the wall itself; the figure is weighted equally to the towel drying on the rail, the reflection of the mirror or the solid purple-red dresser. Each element in this modest room is represented at maximum intensity and it is this which makes this painting crackle with psychological presence.

Perhaps even more so than his mentor Walter Richard Sickert, Gilman understood that the truly modern subject was the city, its back rooms and bed-sits and the isolated, dislocated people who inhabited them.  Mrs Mounter was Gilman’s landlady, but a middle-class woman suffering the subtlest of degradations, as she slid slowly down the social scale, to the point where she is also the housekeeper of the rooms she rents. The hidden but intense pain of this change in fortune is perhaps lost on us today, but would have been keenly felt at the time. Gilman captures Mrs Mounter lost in thought, a moment of ennui or possibly sheer weariness, her apron fixing her firmly in her place. In many ways, this painting inhabits the same conceptual space as the writer Kazuo Ishiguro’s (much later) masterpiece, The Remains of the Day, a profound meditation on the British class system, the life of domestic servants, time passing and – most importantly – regret and the sense of opportunity lost.  Whilst we cannot see Mrs Mounter’s face, in the rest of the painting and in the humming intensity of colour, Gilman eloquently hints at what her expression might be.