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), Pulteney Bridge, Bath, 1918


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10 x 11¾ in (25.5 x 30 cm)
Signed, inscribed and dated ‘Sickert, Bath 1918’ (lower left)

Collections: Sir Michael Sadler; Sir Austen Harris; Anonymous sale Sotheby’s, London 21 October 1959 (62); Mrs. Beatrice Moresby; Anonymous sale Bonhams, London March 1987 (246); Anonymous sale Christie’s, London 6 June 2008 (31); with Agnew’s, London; Private Collection, Sussex.

Exhibited: London, Agnew’s Sickert Centenary Exhibition of Pictures from Private Collections, March-April 1960, no. 94; London, Fine Art Society Sickert, May-June 1973, no. 80: this exhibition travelled to Edinburgh, Fine Art Society, June 1973.

Literature: W. Baron, Sickert, London, 1973, p. 372, no. 371.5; W. Baron, Sickert Paintings and Drawings, New Haven and London, 2006, p. 451, no. 492.5, illustrated (repr. in colour).

Wendy Baron writes, ‘Sickert possibly visited Bath in 1916. He returned for much longer visits in 1917 and 1918, when he rented a house to live in with his wife at The Lodge, Entry Hill (on the far side of the River Avon), as well as several studios. Pulteney Bridge, designed to span the Avon, was opened in 1771. Sickert returned to this subject again and again, relishing its mixture of sky, water, vegetation and buildings. In each version he varied the points of cutting the scene.’

The largest and most fully realised version of this subject, (28 x 45 in) painted circa 1917-18, also known as Pulteney Bridge, Bath (Baron 492) is in the collection of Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Paul Mellon Collection (see W. Baron, 2006, op. cit.).

We are very grateful to Dr. Wendy Baron for her assistance in preparing this entry.

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