In March twenty years ago, the Museum of London opened an exhibition ‘Creative Quarters: the art world in London 1700-2000’. In the accompanying book, the period 1905-1920 was titled ‘Art Movements: Camden Town, Bloomsbury and Fitzrovia’ and an accompanying map indicates the several studios that Walter Sickert occupied in Fizrovia and Stanhope Street as well as Mornington Crescent. As this web page has recorded, Sickert and others of his ‘group’ had little to do with Camden Town itself.
But many artists – indeed hundreds – lived and worked in Camden Town across the nineteenth century. Camden Town was accessible to the traditional central arts areas of Pall Mall, Newman Street and Fitzrovia, yet also cheaper for housing families and with fields still close in the north. The height of activity was in the 1850s and several Royal Academicians had houses in Camden Road and Camden Square. People stayed from a year to decades, although by the end of the century there were only a few, working in two purpose-built studios at 28 Camden Street and 23 Camden Road.
It was paradoxical that many of the artists toured Britain and the Continent to record picturesque landscapes and village genre scenes, which they painted-up in their town studios, yet did not paint the townscape of their own lives. Their pictures sold at exhibitions and through dealers. Just a few remain in the reserve collections of regional museums: but we are now able to find some through the benefit of the online gallery ArtUK.org. The collection is also published by location: there are two volumes for Camden and others for wider parts of London. Although these contain few Camden Town artists, they are printed in full colour on excellent paper and fine bargains at £10 each plus postage.