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PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE AMERICAN MID-WESTERN COLLECTION

Walter Richard Sickert, A.R.A.
THE STUDIO: THE PAINTING OF A NUDE
JUMP TO LOT
13

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE AMERICAN MID-WESTERN COLLECTION

Walter Richard Sickert, A.R.A.
THE STUDIO: THE PAINTING OF A NUDE
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Modern & Post-War British Art

|
London

Walter Richard Sickert, A.R.A.
1860 - 1942
THE STUDIO: THE PAINTING OF A NUDE

Provenance

Possibly Bernheim Jeune, Paris
Morton H. Sands
Lt-Col. M. Christopher Sands
Sale, Sotheby's London, 13th May 1987, lot 91
Browse and Darby, London, 1987
Hirschl & Adler Galleries, New York, where acquired by a Private Collector, and thence by descent to the present owner

Exhibited

Paris, Bernheim Jeune, Exposition Sickert, 10th - 19th January 1907 (as Le Grand Miroir, possibly);
Paris, Bernheim Jeune, Vente de 84 oeuvres de Walter Sickert, 18th - 19th June 1909 (as Le Grand Miroir, possibly);
London, Eldar Gallery, Walter Sickert, January - February 1919, cat. no.41, illustrated (as The Studio);
London, Tate, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, 18th May - 19th June 1960, cat. no.126, illustrated, with Arts Council tour to Southampton Art Gallery, Southampton, and Bradford City Art Gallery, Bradford;
London, Agnews, Sickert, Centenary Exhibition of Pictures from Private Collections, 14th March – 14th April 1960, cat. no.61, illustrated (as The Model);
Brighton, Royal Pavilion, Sickert, June 1962, cat. no.82 (as The Model); 
London, Fine Art Society, Sickert, 21st May - 8th June 1973, cat. no.68, with tour to Fine Art Society, Edinburgh;
Hull, Ferens Art Gallery, Sickert, 17th December 1977 - 28th January 1978,  cat. no.35, illustrated, with Arts Council Tour;
London, Royal Academy, British Art in the Twentieth Century: The Modern Movement, 15th January - 5th April 1987, cat. no.3, illustrated;
London, Browse and Darby, British and French Paintings and Drawings, 1987, cat. no.39, illustrated;
New York, Hirschl and Adler, British Modernist Art: 1905-1930, 1987, cat. no.34, illustrated;
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Sickert: Paintings, 20th November 1992 - 14th February 1993, cat. no.56, illustrated.

Literature

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

Catalogue Note

We are grateful to Wendy Baron to her kind assistance with the cataloguing of the present work. 

The Studio is among Sickert’s most accomplished and audacious figure paintings. Its composition - at first sight straightforward -  is in fact of striking sophistication. The entire scene is a mirror image containing within itself a second mirror image. Deconstruction reveals that the surface of the painting is a disguised looking glass which the painter is facing; the painter himself, identified by the brazen diagonal of his arm cutting across the canvas, is largely outside the picture; he is standing with his back to the model whom he is painting as he sees her 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 marshalled an armoury of brushmarks: linear, hatched strokes, broken dabs of impasto, dry scrapes along the contours. He has contrasted crusty areas of paint with fat, smooth passages. The compromise between thin and thick paint, summary and laboured definition, broadly swept untidy brushwork and a delicately precise touch, shows masterly control throughout.    

The confident maturity of this painting has led to its misdating.  It seemed self-evident that it must be a product of the climax, not the beginning, of the Camden Town period. Browse dated it c.1917. The present writer revised this dating to c.1911-12, while noting that there was an outside chance 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.   

Wendy Baron

Modern & Post-War British Art

|
London