at Dulwich Picture Gallery, London

Walter Sickert, St Mark's Venice, British Council.

Edited by F. Moorhouse


A hundred years ago, everything that was new in British came from Walter Sickert.  For this reason he is regarded as the father of modern British art. Sickert was one of the most important British artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Sickert was a pupil of Whistler, a friend of Degas and an acquaintance of Manet.  He introduced Impressionism and Post-Impressionism to a burgeoning generation of British painters.

This is the first ever exhibition devoted to Sickert's pictures of Venice, where he found his identity as an artist. He made repeated visits starting in 1895 and Venice inspired some of his most ravishing impressionist work. He painted - among many other Venetian scenes - St Mark's Basilica under different lighting conditions, and later moved indoors, experimenting with figures in interiors - the subject matter that would become his trademark.

Venice marked a watershed location in his personal and professional life. It was here that he evolved a mature approach to the subject that was to bring him fame and success in his subsequent career. In the winter of 1895 Sickertís wife Christine arranged to meet him in Venice to try to resolve their troubled marriage. It was an unsuccessful reconciliation and, aged thirty-five, and with little critical or financial success in his art, Sickert stayed on in Venice to face an uncertain future. It became the inspiration and background to his reinvention, and the point from which his unique experimentation with figures in interiors began.

The first pictures Sickert made in Venice are highly impressive vidutti of St Markís and the Rialto, painted in his own rich version of impressionism. Painting the cityís architecture, he adopted Degasís practice of cropping compositions to make them visually more exciting. But during subsequent visits Sickert moved the object of his attention first into alleyways, and then indoors. He started experimenting with the concept of ambiguous figures in interiors, which forced the viewer to speculate about the nature of what they were looking at. Through his pairing of female figures Ė the Venetian prostitutes, La Giuseppina and La Carolina, sometimes dressed, sometimes nude Ė Sickert discovered an approach to the subject that formed the basis of his art for his remaining career.

The exhibition is divided into a number of themes to demonstrate the range and development of Sickertís Venetian pictures. There will be Views and Vistas, Nocturnes, Figures and Groups and Painting the Nude. The exhibition is curated by Robert Upstone, Curator of Modern British Art at Tate Britain.

The Exhibition

Dates:  March 4 - May 31, 2009 at Dulwich Picture Gallery, Gallery Road, London SE21 7AD  Tel: 020 8693 5254

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