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Piano Nobile unveil a newly re-discovered work by Walter Sickert Celebrations, Dieppe, 1914
Walter Sickert (1860-1942), Celebrations, Dieppe c.1914, Courtesy Piano Nobile.

LONDON.- Walter Richard Sickert (1860-­‐1942) was the most influential and versatile British painter, print-maker, teacher and writer on art of the twentieth century. Celebrations, Dieppe is  without doubt an iconic example of Sickert’s work as a painter. The painting was sold to a private collector in 1944, and was not seen again until its re-­‐discovery in Spring 2011. This is an incredibly rare opportunity to view a Sickert oil painting that remains relatively unknown, not having been publically exhibited since 1940.

Painted in Dieppe, Sickert’s second home, Celebrations is a typically dynamic and vibrant town-scape, beautifully capturing the light and movement of the town. The French painter Jacques-Émile Blanche, who also had a summer home in Dieppe, called Sickert the Canaletto of Dieppe: ‘No other artist has so perfectly felt and expressed the character of the town’.

However Celebrations is also shrouded under a mist of ambiguity. As a result of being held unseen in a private collection for so long, the painting was not included in Wendy Baron’s extensive Catalogue Raisonné. At an unknown time the work was also wrongly catalogued and ascribed the title and incorrect date of 1911, most likely inventions by Rex Nan Kivell, the first known owner of the painting.

Through first-hand examinations, Baron has concluded that the palette, clean paint surface and sharp definition of the painting all point to a date of 1914. This suggestion is confirmed by the intrusion in the top centre of the painting of an unattached sprig of chestnut leaves, which feature prominently in other studies of Dieppe from 1913-1914.

The motif suggests August 1914 when Sickert painted the streets and architecture of Dieppe rather than the surrounding countryside. The inclusion of both a Tricolour and Union Jack in front of the Hotel de Ville in Dieppe, point to the moment on 4 August 1914 when Britain joined forces with France and Russia to declare war on Germany. Sickert is depicting a hugely historic moment that marks the beginning of the Great War, the centenary of which is being celebrated this August. Thus a seemingly beautiful and serene townscape is, similarly to his renowned Camden Town series, masking a darker moment of ‘the war to end all peace’.

Sickert’s active career stretched from the Victorian age well into the modern era. Allusions to Sickert punctuate not only the art of his contemporaries but also the work of figurative painters ever since, from Andy Warhol to Frank Auerbach.

Celebrations, Dieppe will be on display at Piano Nobile throughout the Summer, after which it will be shown at 20/21 British Art Fair at the Royal College of Art, London from 10th - 14th September.

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