Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Sickert at Tate Britain

Walter Sickert is one of my favourite painters. It's everything about his work: the colour, the application of paint, the subject matter, the viewpoint. It's an absolute pleasure to see these wonderful artworks together and feast on all of those things at once. He was a frequent attender at music halls, and many of these paintings are inspired by what he saw on these outings, but from a quirky perspective: a forest of oboes and bassoons from an orchestra painted from behind, or a view from under the curved balustrade of the theatre balcony.

He was an unforgiving observer of body size but had the skill to paint weight which is the true measure of an artist. It's so hard to make marks on a surface indicate heaviness and gravity: perhaps the most difficult thing.

There is something almost onomatopoeic about his brush technique; it's often spiky like his name (although his signature isn't). He had an affinity with D├ęgas, whose work I also really love.

I wasn't so keen on the cityscapes or the soft porn, but you can't have everything. And yes, I know he was a candidate for being Jack the Ripper but on balance that appears to have been disproved, apart from by people with books to sell. Looking at you Charlotte Cornwell. How can anyone possibly know if they are right or wrong so long after the events? He seems to have been in Europe a lot of the time and I think I might look in Venice and Paris to see if the same crimes were being committed there before I made a decision.

Meanwhile, the paintings are lovely and I'm going to go again. I feel that as an illustrator I can learn a lot from him when I am confident enough to loosen up my style.

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