Friday, February 14, 2014

Sickert, Walter Richard

Minnie Cunningham at the Old Bedford
oil on canvas
76.5 x 63.8 cm
The Tate Gallery, London, UK

Minnie Cunningham was a popular music hall performer of the 1890s whom Sickert admired. He first exhibited this picture with the subtitle “I’m an old hand at love, though I’m young in years” - a quotation from one of her songs.

Walter Richard Sickert (1860-1942), born in Munich, Germany, was a painter, printmaker, teacher and writer who was a member of the Camden Town Group in London. He was an important influence on distinctively British styles of avant-garde art in the 20th century. He is often called a painter's painter, appealing primarily to artists working in the figurative tradition; there are few British figurative painters of the 20th century whose development can be adequately discussed without reference to Sickert's subject-matter or innovative techniques.

After several years working as an actor, in 1882 he became an assistant to James Whistler, and the following year he met the French Impressionist Edgar Degas in Paris; these artists greatly influenced his work. In particular, he was indebted to Degas for the ability to establish a situation merely through the attitudes of his figures. In his later work he increasingly used photographs, rather than live models, as the basis for his work. He also occasionally wrote art criticism for the leading journals of the day. His active career as an artist lasted for nearly 60 years. His output was vast.

He was a cosmopolitan and eccentric who often favoured ordinary people and urban scenes as his subjects. His oeuvre also included portraits of well-known personalities and images derived from press photographs. He is considered a prominent figure in the transition from Impressionism to Modernism.