Walter Richard Sickert, RA (1860-1942)

As a painter, writer and teacher, Sickert is the outstanding figure of his time in British Art. From the 1880’s to the 1930’s he produced a body of paintings, drawings and etchings unrivalled in its compelling vision, technical mastery and exhilarating changes of style and subject. Above all, he continually re-examined his practice, subject-matter and purpose with a single minded relish for his craft that was unique among his contemporaries. His writings published as A Free House!, constitute the wittiest most practical commentary on the paintings and painters of his era. Few collections of ephemeral journalism continue to instruct and delight long after their occasion is spent; Sickert’s still kick with life. As a teacher, continually opening and closing schools, his influence was proportionate to the independence of his students.  Some of them were simply knocked flat by the irresistible force of his personality. Far more beneficial was his effect on painters already, to some extent, formed. These he guided and encouraged at critical moments in their development, and several proved their allegiance by joining him in 1911 to form the Camden Town Group. As Actor-Manager of this first society in the 20th Century of progressive British artists, Sickert’s cosmopolitan and professional attitude confers on him an importance that is crucial to the history of modern British art. Under Sickert’s wings, the Camden Town Group became ‘one of this century’s very few successful, modern, realist movements’. His approach to the questions of what to paint – not simply how to paint – pressed from his colleagues and followers a solution to the most urgent problem of the day.

‘Walter Sickert, The Dispassionate Observer’, Richard Stone, Sickert Paintings (RA, 1993)

Walter Richard Sickert, RA (1860-1942), Le Grand Duquesne, 1899


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21½ x 18in (55 x 46 cm)

Collections: Probably Gustave Cohen, Paris and his sale Galerie Petit May 24,1929 (79); Walter Fletcher, CBE, MP; His sale Christies, Nov 1,1957 (59); With Agnew’s; Victor Montagu, Viscount Hinchingbrooke; Sotheby’s June 22, 1994 (44); With The Fine Art Society; Count Natalia Labia,Capetown; Sotheby’s, December 4,2002(25) bt. Agnew’s; sold in 2006 to William J. Levy, New York and thence by descent

Exhibited: Agnew’s Sickert-Centenary Exhibition 1960 (67); Eastbourne,Towner Art Gallery Sickert in Dieppe 1975 (15);Browse and Darby Sickert 1981 (3)

Literature: W.Baron Sickert 1973 no.111,p.217 and 319,fig 78; W.Baron Sickert 2006 (125), repr. colour plate and p.38

Le Grand Duquesne is the popular name for the statue of Admiral Duquesne in the Place Nationale, Dieppe. Duquesne was a Dieppe native who famously defeated the Dutch off the coast of Sicily in 1676.The statue unveiled in 1844 is the work of Antoine Laurent Danton (1798 – 1878), an artist Sickert admired and collected. During Sickert’s permanent residency in Dieppe between 1898-1905 the statue was one of his favourite and most oft-repeated subjects. Wendy Baron considers this to be the first in the series. The various versions differ primarily in the cast of figures in the foreground although it can be said that this picture most vividly captures the Admiral’s swaggering presence.

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