LONDON.- The Fine Art Society
announced an exhibition of fifty works by Walter Sickert (1860 - 1942) - arguably the greatest British artist since Turner.
Throughout his sixty year career, in his several roles as painter, teacher and polemicist, Sickert was an important source of inspiration and influence to successive generations of British painters - including artists such as Francis Bacon, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach and Leon Kossoff. The fascination his work holds for painters has endured to this day.
Defying conventional categorisation, Sickerts art cannot be contained within the movements of his age; as he wrote, Let us leave the labels to those who have little else wherewith to cover their nakedness. The logic and the impetus behind his development was his wish to discover the ideal technique and the ideal handling- and he is often called a painters painter because the courage and achievement of his searching investigations of technique are perhaps best appreciated by those who have struggled with the same problems.
The current exhibition presents a broad span of works drawn from across Sickerts artistic career, which began at the Slade School of Fine Art and continued with an apprenticeship under James McNeill Whistler. A group of rare paintings and prints from the 1880s leads to a strong group of paintings of Dieppe, one of his most significant inspirations. It was here that he developed a close friendship with Edgar Degas, whom he had first met whilst acting as a courier for Whistlers famous painting Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painters Mother, when it was submitted to the Paris Salon in 1883.
The show also includes a number of works painted in Venice, including views of St Marks, the Rialto and other well-known sites, as well as Sickerts first interiors. These were the precursors of his later Camden Town interiors, which are represented in the exhibition by two etched versions of his masterpiece Ennui. Prior to becoming an artist, Sickert had spent a year as an actor, and the theatre was a lifelong passion and source of many of his greatest subjects. He frequented circuses, theatres, music halls and concerts, and depictions of many of his favourite haunts feature in the exhibition, including The Old Middlesex, the Old and New Bedfords and the London Music Hall, Shoreditch.
The latest works in the show are Sickerts Echoes, images derived from Victorian illustrators and re-workings of earlier subjects, first celebrated in the show Late Sickert at the Hayward Gallery in 1981. Over the course of his career he continued to invent and to develop his technique, pioneering the use of photographs and illustrations in newspapers in his works. Without his determination to develop the problems of painting, in subject, technique and interpretation, the course of 20th century British art might have been entirely different.