Birth name Harold John Wilde Gilman
Born 11 February 1876, Rode, Somerset, England
Died 12 February 1919, London, England
The British artist Harold John Wilde Gilman (11 February 1876 – 12 February 1919) was a founder-member of the Camden Town Group. He died in the influenza epidemic of 1918–19. Though born in Rode, Somerset, Gilman spent his early years at Snargate Rectory, in the Romney Marshes in Kent, where his father was the Rector. Developing an interest in art during a childhood convalescence period, he began his artistic training after a non-collegiate year at Oxford University (again cut short by ill health) and time working as a tutor to an English family living in Odessa. Studying at the Hastings School of Art (1896) and then the Slade School of Fine Art (1897–1901), he then spent over a year studying the Spanish masters (Velázquez as well as Whistler were major early influences) and meeting and marrying the American painter Grace Cornelia Canedy. Moving back to London, where they settled (apart from an abortive trip to visit her family in Chicago, in which Gilman ducked pressure to join the Canedy family business), they had two daughters (one in London, one in Chicago).
Meeting Walter Sickert in 1907, Gilman became a founder member of both the Fitzroy Street Group (in 1907) and the Camden Town Group (in 1911). In the meantime he joined the Allied Artists' Association, moved to Letchworth, and began to show influence from work of Vuillard as well as Sickert. He soon outpaced Sickert's understanding of post-Impressionism and moved out from under his shadow, however, using ever stronger colour and identifying with Charles Ginner as a 'Neo-Realist' (exhibiting with Ginner under that label in 1914).
Gilman visited Scandinavia in 1912 and 1913, and may have travelled with the artist William Ratcliffe, who had relations there. Gilman made studies of the environment, and painted Canal Bridge, Flekkefjord, an accurate depiction, whose subject is likely to have been inspired by Vincent van Gogh's depiction of a similar bridge in Provence. Gilman had rejected Van Gogh's work when he first encountered it, but later became a strong admirer and, according to Wyndham Lewis, keeping postcards of Van Gogh's work on his wall and sometimes hanging one of his own works next to them, if he was especially satisfied with it.
At that time he also joined Robert Bevan's short-lived Cumberland Market Group with Ginner and John Nash. Remarrying in 1917, in 1918 he was commissioned to travel to Nova Scotia by the Canadian War Records. He died in London on 12 February 1919 of the Spanish flu.