Sickert, Walter Richard

Date: 1860-1942

Born in Munich, Walter Richard Sickert originally wanted to be an actor, and focused on this interest in music-halls, theatres, and popular culture in his later paintings. After moving to Britain, Sickert attended the Slade School of Fine Art for a year before becoming a pupil of and etching assistant to Whistler. In 1888, Sickert joined the New English Art Club, a group of French-influenced realist artists. In the late 1880s, he spent the majority of his time in Dieppe and wrote art criticisms for various publications.

Sickert was fascinated by urban culture, often setting up his studio in working-class sections of London. The painting that brought him to prominence in the realist movement in Britain was ‘The Camden Town Murder,’ which was inspired by the murder of Emily Dimmock. Through this painting, Sickert was deliberately challenging conventional life paintings (even though it featured no violence) and cemented the fact that there was no comparison to the documentary realism of his works in British art. The painting was done in his typical style of heavy impasto in a narrow tonal range.

With Spencer Gore, he co-founded the Camden Town Group in 1911; although they had been meeting informally since 1905. While the group was influenced by Post-Impressionism and Expressionism, they focused on scenes of suburban life.

From 1908 to 1912 and 1915 to 1918, he taught at the Westminster School of Art, while also running his own school, Rowlandson House, from 1910 to 1914. After 1920, he moved to Dieppe and began to focus on painting scenes of casinos and café life. He returned to London in 1922 and was made an Associated of the Royal Academy.

He suffered a suspected minor stroke in 1926. From 1927 onwards he chose to be known by his middle name. His style and subject matter changed; he stopped drawing and began to paint snapshots based on photographs taken by his wife or from newspapers. These later works are considered his most forward-thinking and inspired artists such as Chuck Close and Gerhard Richter. He died at the age of 81 in 1941.

The University Art Collection holds 19 drawings by Walter Sickert, on a variety of subjects.