Lot 8
  • 8

Walter Richard Sickert, A.R.A.

50,000 - 80,000 GBP
81,250 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Walter Richard Sickert, A.R.A.
  • Nude Before a Mirror, Fitzroy Street
  • oil on canvas


Leicester Galleries, London
Robert Haines, Australia
Sale, Christie’s London, 21st May 1965, lot 77, where acquired by John Christopherson
Belgrave Gallery, London
Offer Waterman Fine Art, London, where acquired by the previous owner and thence gifted to the present owner


Wendy Baron, Sickert: Paintings and Drawings, Yale University Press, New Haven & London, 2006, cat. no.270.3, illustrated p.323.

Catalogue Note

‘The nude has taken on with time some of the qualities of an examination subject, with time a series of crammers, not all intelligent, have overlaid the subject with receipts, short-cuts and panaceas. An inconsistent and prurient puritanism has succeeded in evolving an ideal which it seeks to dignify by calling it the Nude, with a capital “n,” and placing it in opposition to the naked… The modern flood of representations of the vacuous images dignified by the name of the Nude, represents an intellectual and artistic bankruptcy that cannot but be considered degrading …Perhaps the chief source of pleasure in the aspect of a nude is that it is in the nature of a gleam – a gleam of light and warmth and life. And that it should appear thus, it should be set in surroundings of drapery or other contrasting surfaces...’ (Walter Richard Sickert, ‘The Naked and the Nude,’ The New Age, 21st July 1910, pp.276–7).

Walter Sickert’s paintings produced between 1905 and 1913 of the naked female form, set within the dingy interiors of several North London lodgings, are today recognized as amongst the most shocking, modern and innovative compositions of his oeuvre. Seeking to strip away the stagnant and outmoded artistic conventions which surrounded the female nude, the syrupy, idealistic and austere depictions that had risen to prominence in high art circles in the 19th Century, Sickert chose the nude as his vehicle to reaffirm his status as a leading proponent of the avant-garde. They became his subject of choice to stir up and revitalise what he felt was an artistic scene in London that had drifted into convention and stagnation during his time away in Europe in the previous years.

Sickert’s nudes are uncompromisingly realist. The body is presented starkly, not distanced through allegory, romanticism, or by removing any sort of context or setting. The figures are depicted on unmade industrially produced iron beds, a symbol of working class life during this period, in uncompromising positions, hair pinned up practically, with props and features that ground the scene in a contemporary urban setting. There are pervasive connotations of prostitution, and often the viewer is placed in the uncomfortable position of customer or voyeur, at the end of the bed or, in this case, perched on the corner of a tattered striped couch. Here we look upon a woman casually reading a newspaper, her form articulated using Sickert’s expressive and unflinching brushwork, her presence fleshy, weighty and physical. Her reflection is visible in the large cheval glass, mirrors being a prop which Sickert used in several of his interior nudes. The window which shows the London skyline is uncovered, allowing a beam of light to illuminate the scene, piercing the otherwise dark and seedy tableau. Painted in 1905 Nude before a Mirror, Fitzroy Street is one of Sickert’s earliest compositions to tackle a subject which would for him prove to be one of the most fruitful themes of his career, allowing him not only to redefine a traditional genre, but also to assert himself as a leading proponent of modern painting.