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 Hilda Carline  (1889 - 1950)

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Lived/Active: United Kingdom      Known for: painting

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Standing female nude in a studio; and Standing female nude
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Annie Hilda Carline (1889-1950)

She was born in north London and her family decamped to Oxford when she was three, although they had Lincoln connections.  Her father George and her brothers Richard and Sydney all became artists.  However, while her brothers were actively encouraged, Hilda was left to potter about Oxford, bored witless (there were no dreaming spires for her) until, at the age of 24, her father let her go to an art school in Hampstead run by Percyval Tudor-Hart.  He was a man of strong avant-garde, post-impressionist views, who adopted Kandinsky's theories concerning coloration some time before the Russian was well known here.

To her delight, Carline later moved to the Slade and the wholly different approach of Henry Tonks, martinet of formalism and line.  Thus she acquired two very different perspectives on the aesthetic process.  Subsequently, this enabled her to switch effortlessly from the portraiture, nudes and garden scene scapes that her Slade days had helped refine to a particularly striking, near-abstract landscape style that she had developed under her first tutor.

Carline got to know several prominent London artists and exhibited at the Royal Academy, the new English Art Club and with the London Group. Then in 1919, aged 30, she met Stanley Spencer at a family dinner.  From thereon in for Hilda Carline, a perverse fate took over.

The couple married in 1925 at the weathered old church at Wangford in the wilds of north Suffolk, where Carline had been a land girl in the first world war. Here was the landscape immortalized by Harry Becker, the Suffolk impressionist. The Spencers then moved around southern England until Stanley could afford to buy Lindworth at Cookham.  They had two daughters.

Patricia Preece and her lesbian lover Dorothy Hepworth lived in Cookham, too. They had an extraordinary professional relationship.  Hepworth painted the pictures, while the more outgoing, dominant Preece signed them.  This trickery even led Augustus John to declare that Preece was one of England's six best living woman painters, better even than his sister Gwen.  Preece made ostensibly enthusiastic overtures to Spencer, who, evidently something of a naif, was taken in.

Carline had known depression before (only two known works date from the whole of 1933), but this nonsense was too much.  After Spencer proposed the menage, Carline divorced him and he married Preece, who then decided Carline could provide Spencer with straight sex: Preece never consummated the relationship, but she did clean Spencer out - he ended up in a single room in Hampstead.

Carline underwent a mastectomy in 1948 and her health never recovered.  She died at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead in 1950.  Spencer was by her bed ceaselessly, but by then it was too late.  To the end, Carline could never quite understand how Spencer could expect her to become his mistress when she had previously been his wife.

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