Walter Sickert 1860-1942

Provenance

Possibly Bernheim Jeune, Paris
Morton H. Sands
Lt.-Col. M. Christopher Sands
Sotheby's, London, 13 May 1987, lot 91
With Browse & Darby, London, 1987
With Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York

Private Collection and thence by descent

Sotheby’s, London, 17 Nov. 2015, lot 13

Exhibitions

1907, Paris, Bernheim Jeune, Exposition Sickert, 10 - 19 Jan. 1907 (as Le Grand Miroir, possibly)
1909, Paris, Bernheim Jeune, Vente de 84 oeuvres de Walter Sickert, 18 - 19 June 1909 (as Le Grand Miroir, possibly)
1919, London, Eldar Gallery, Walter Sickert, Jan. - Feb. 1919, cat. no. 41 (illus. as The Studio)
1960, London, Tate Gallery; Southampton, Southampton Art Gallery; and Bradford, Bradford City Art Gallery, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, 18 May - 19 June 1960; 2 - 24 July 1960; and 30 July - 20 Aug. 1960, cat. no. 126 (illus.)
1960, London, Agnews, Sickert, Centenary Exhibition of Pictures from Private Collections, 14 March – 14 April 1960, cat. no. 61 (illus. as The Model)
1962, Brighton, Royal Pavilion, Sickert, June 1962, cat. no.82 (as The Model)
1973, London, Fine Art Society, Sickert, 21 May - 8 June 1973, cat. no. 68
1978, Hull, Ferens Art Gallery; Glasgow, Glasgow Art Gallery; and Plymouth, Plymouth City Art Museum and Art Gallery, Sickert, 17 Dec. 1977 - 28 Jan. 1978; 11 Feb. - 27 March 1978; and 8 April - 21 May 1978, cat. no. 35 (illus.)
1987, London, Royal Academy of Arts, British Art in the Twentieth Century: The Modern Movement, 15 Jan. - 5 April 1987, cat. no. 3 (illus.)
1987, London, Browse & Darby, British and French Paintings and Drawings, 24 June - 1 Aug. 1987, cat. no. 39 (illus.)
1987, New York, Hirschl & Adler, British Modernist Art: 1905-1930, 14 Nov. 1987 - 9 Jan. 1988, cat. no. 34 (illus.)

1993, London, Royal Academy of Arts, Sickert: Paintings, 20 Nov. 1992 - 14 Feb. 1993, cat. no. 56 (illus.)

2018, London, Tate Britain and Budapest, Museum of Fine Arts - Hungarian National Gallery, All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life, 28 Feb. - 27 Aug. 2018 and 9 Oct. 2018 - 30 Jan. 2019, unnumbered (col. illus.)

Literature

Lillian Browse, Sickert, Rupert Hart-Davis, 1960, p. 78, pl. 74 (illus.)
Wendy Dimson, 'Four Sickert Exhibitions', The Burlington Magazine, vol. 102, 1960, p. 440, fig. 31 (illus.)
Wendy Baron, Sickert, Phaidon Press, 1973, cat. no.160, fig. 109 (illus.)
Richard Shone, Walter Sickert, Phaidon Press, 1988, pl. 36 (illus.)
Lisa Tickner, 'Walter Sickert: the Camden Town Murder and Tabloid Crime', Modern Life and Modern Subjects: British Art in the Early Twentieth Century, Yale University Press, 2000, fig. 29 (illus.)
David Peter Corbett, Walter Sickert, Tate Publishing, 2001, fig. 21 (illus.)
Anna Gruetzner Robins, 'Sickert and the Paris Art World' in Anna Gruetzner Robins, ed., Degas, Sickert, and Toulouse-Lautrec: London and Paris, 1870-1910, Tate Publishing, 2005, p. 171, fig. 47 (illus.)
Wendy Baron, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, Yale University Press, 2006, cat. no. 270, p. 322 (illus.)

Elena Crippa et al., All Too Human: Bacon, Freud and a Century of Painting Life, Tate Publishing, 2018, pp. 16, 29 and 69 (col. illus.)

The Studio is among Sickert’s most accomplished and audacious figure paintings. Its composition - at first sight straightforward - is in fact strikingly sophisticated. The scene is a mirror image, containing within itself a second mirror image, and further deconstruction reveals that the surface of the painting is a disguised looking glass that the painter is facing. The painter himself, identified by the strong diagonal of his arm cutting across the canvas, is largely outside of the frame; he is stood with his back to the model whom he is painting as reflected in the large looking glass; she in turn has her back to an arched mirror (the door of a wardrobe or perhaps a cheval glass) and is thus revealed to the painter and to the spectator in two aspects. The Studio may be read as a single figure (the nude), a two-figure (the nude and the painter), or a three-figure subject (the painter, and the nude seen from the front and from the back).

The richness and variety of handling demonstrated in The Studio is likewise remarkable. Sickert has expressively used both linear and hatched brushstrokes in conjunction with broken dabs of impasto and dry scrapes along the contours, and contrasted crusty areas of paint with fat, smooth passages. The balance of thick and thinly applied paint, broadly swept brushwork and that more delicately placed, and of free and more laboured definition, shows masterly control throughout.

The obvious maturity of this painting has led to its misdating. It seemed evident that it must be a product of the apogee and not the beginning of the Camden Town period. Browse dated it c.1917. The present writer previously revised this dating to c.1911-12, whilst noting the possibility that it was painted as early as 1906. Having studied the painting repeatedly in the intervening years, I now judge that 1906 is the correct date. If so, there is a strong probability it is Le grand miroir, shown at Bernheim Jeune in Paris in January 1907 and again (this time with dimensions - which match The Studio - quoted) in the auction sale organised by Bernheim in 1909.

The low tonality of The Studio accords with the 1906 date. More telling are certain circumstantial details of its setting. It is clearly contemporary with The Mantelpiece (Southampton Art Gallery). Both are painted on English-size, 30 x 20 inch, canvases. Both represent the same interior featuring the arched mirror (wardrobe door or cheval glass) with a jacket hanging from its wooden surround. The main subject, a standing nude and her reflection in a full-length looking-glass, was one that preoccupied Sickert in other paintings and drawings of 1906, some done in his Fitzroy Street, London studio and some in the Hôtel du Quai Voltaire, Paris where he spent the autumn of that year. The Studio (like The Mantelpiece) is a London subject. If it is indeed Le grand miroir at Bernheim in 1907, it must have been painted before Sickert’s autumn visit to Paris. It anticipates the most fruitful period of Sickert’s career as a painter of intimate north London figure subjects.

Text by Wendy Baron